1. Kirron Kher in Khamosh Pani
Restraint and realism at its best. Especially if you consider that even the limp that the widowed character walked with was actual (Kher had torn her ligament before filmmaker Sabiha Sumar's shooting schedule).
Undoubtedly the most moderated movie portrayal of the year. And the best certificate of appreciation that we can think of is: She was absolutely as good as the film.
2. Pankaj Kapur in Maqbool
Difficult to pinpoint one actor who singularly shone in this brilliant compendium – Nasseer, Tabu, Om Puri… But as you left the cinema, the one persona that certainly stuck to your mind had to be Don Abbaji.
Kapur exuding a quiet menace with dead eyes, carefully cultivated deep voice and a slouched, gentle gait.
While the role's (originally to be played by Nasseer) treatment seemed heavily inspired by Marlon Brando in The Godfather, it proved once and for all what many have thought of before: Kapoor is clearly among the most under-used and underrated acting talents in Indian cinema.
3. Hrithik Roshan in Lakshya
After the film opened, Roshan mentioned that working on Lakshya was like "like being in the army" – an obvious dig at an apparently tyrannical, but talented filmmaker Farhan Akhtar.
Not sure if it was Akhtar's regimental regimen on his sets that had Roshan reach dizzying heights in an endearing show laden with ample ethos.
The transformations in the character-graph of Lt Karan Shergill (the point of the picture) was so subtle, gradual and perfect that not many realised this was almost a double-role of the male lead.
4. Amitabh Bachchan in Khakee
Rajkumar Santoshi's Khakee quite simply was proof that the 'angry young man' had only gotten better, if not younger as well.
It is really amazing how we felt charged up when Bachchan's fiery-eyed DCP Shrivastav reminded a junior cop his 'moral' duty.
How we wanted to whistle aloud in the aisles when his grainy-voiced, valiant vanguard lectured a crowd on the psyche of a mob. How we wanted to go to the cinema for the same reasons we did for more than a decade — about three decades ago. This was Bachchan, absolutely back to basics.
5. Shah Rukh Khan in Swades
If box-office is not perceived as the sole barometer of a movie's merit, Swades was Shah Rukh's best film yet. The actor was the original choice for Gowariker's Lagaan where Aamir Khan walked away with the role of a lifetime.
Hrithik Roshan was apparently the original choice for the Indian NASA scientist in Gowariker's next film, and this time Shah Rukh walked away with certainly the role of his lifetime. A pleasant respite from his recurrently similar personas in mainstream movies.
6. Rani Mukherjee in Yuva
Just replay Mukherjee's immensely natural, rice-fed-mouthed laugh in a restaurant scene in Mani Ratnam's under-valued venture, and that may be one good reason why we pick her among an equally able set of actors in the film.
The sheer spark and spontaneity of her succinct show made us think what she could have done with the lead-role in Ratnam's Dil Se that she was apparently to be recruited for.
7. Abhishek Bachchan in Naach
A soulful, searing emotion-heavy drama that rested solely on the strong shoulders of its main leads – Bachchan and Antra Mali (brilliant as well). Post a 20-film-resume, finally (after a revelatory show in Mani Ratnam's Yuva), Bachchan lived up to the arduous stipulations of the fantastic screenplay.
What we can't believe is that Ram Gopal Varma offered this job to him due to a bit role in a ditzy dud called Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon!
8. Kareena Kapoor in Dev
When asked to comment on her research at a pre-release interview for Govind Nihalani's film, Kapoor had mentioned that she'd decided to ponytail and oil her hair.
That such superfluous exploration could elicit such a studiedly silent depiction of a character based on Best Bakery incident's star witness Zaheera Sheikh appears unconceivable.
Back from an as convincing portrayal of a sex worker in Sudhir Mishra's Chameli, the reason Kapoor deserves special applause here is that she entirely stood out within a short screen time, and with Om Puri and Amitabh Bachchan as the film's actual centerpieces. That's a tall order all right.
9. Shilpa Shetty in Phir Milenge
Shilpa Shetty recommended Salman Khan for the second-lead's role in Revathy's adaptation of Philadelphia.
What beats us is who recommended Shetty to play this completely un-made-up, intense HIV-infected ad-executive who sues her firm for discrimination.
But neatly executed, marvelously controlled, this sweet surprise made us do a complete retake on what Bollywood's 'bombshell' danseuses are capable of, with adept director.