Shahana Goswami: She has played some excellent supporting roles in "Rock On!" and "Firaaq" which show her great potential as an actor. She also has some interesting projects to look forward to in "Mirch" and "Basra." With a career filled with eclectic choices, she definitely qualifies in this list.
Mahi Gill: Not many actors would choose to play a sexually charged partly egoistic and partly obsessive lover for their debut vehicle. In “Dev D” Mahi Gill stunned one and all with her performance of a modern day Paro, one who is not only madly in love with Dev but also independent, fiery and spirited enough to stun even the most liberal moviegoers. Barely 3 movies old, she has the potential to carve a niche for her much like Tabu did. In fact, she comes across as a mix of Shabana Azmi of the 80s and Tabu. A girl with gumption without a doubt, see her scene in “Dev D” when her character meets Dev in the rundown hotel for the one last time to know what I mean.
Priyanka Chopra: Once again, like Kajol, she is perhaps the only mainstream actress worth mentioning for having any gumption when it comes to take on challenging roles and delivering on them. Among the host of movies that she has done which range from conventional to pure crap, there are some truly sparkling performances from different points in her career that show her to be an actor with substance. First in line is “Aitraaz,” a reworking of “Disclosure” where she played the role Demi Moore played in the original. A powerful performance for a relative newcomer, she single-handedly made the movie worth watching. Then came “Fashion” last year where her pheonix-rising-from-the-ashes act in the backdrop of the fashion industry was pure gold. And recently, her performance in “Kaminey” was brilliant and practically re-wrote the role of the heroine in the masala movie from a damsel in distress best known for running around the trees to a gun-totting, fiery and yet down to earth urban babe who can do just about anything. All of this and more, certainly qualifies her for this list.
Chitrangada Singh: Now this was another gutsy actor in choosing her debut vehicle. Sudhir Mishra’s “Hazaron Khwaishein Aisi” was perhaps the only political epic in its truest sense to ever come out on modern India. And her role was one of at once a woman experiencing political confusion and emotional catharsis as she is caught between two men, one she loves and one who loves her. A complex and difficult role, she wowed me with her performance. Following this was “Kal” (which I have not seen) and “Sorry Bhai” (another risky role involving an affair between her and her brother-in-law to be), both of which were eclectic choices and showed her acting prowess and range quite well. Striking in her resemblance to Smita Patil, this unconventionally beautiful actress is capable of a lot more than what she has already shown and only time will tell if she fulfils her potential or not.
And finally, (drumroll sounds)
Konkana Sen Sharma: Lets let her work speak for her. She played a married conservative Iyer wife who falls in love with a Muslim man in “Mr. And Mrs. Iyer,” a struggling actor who realises the true meaning of success and failure in “Luck by Chance,” the schizophrenic girl who thinks she loves in an imaginary house with her loved ones in “15 Park Avenue,” a naive gossip columnist lost in the world of glamour in “Page 3,” a swinging wife in “Mixed Doubles,” a woman in search of her identity in “Amu” and more. Truly the best and most courageous female actor in the industry today by almost any standard.
Honorary mentions: Rani Mukerji for movies like Yuva, Hey Ram and Black though they are three films in over a 15 year career spanning nearly 40-50 films;
Vidya Balan for "Parineeta" and the upcoming "Ishqiya" in which she looks promising after a long time and a dozen crappy mainstream movies.
Anyone I have missed out? Do tell!