Restricted to Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam cinema, of course.
Irffan Khan in 'The Namesake': To carve out a memorable personality out of what seems to be a no-role at first glance is, by itself, a tremendous achievement. Ashok Ganguli is, at least on paper, an unobtrusive, gentle and quiet Bengali - not exactly an author-backed role. What Irffan Khan, hitherto known mostly for his venomous dialogue-spewing roles, puts into this role is tremendous dignity. And of course, he manages to completely out shadow Tabu in an author-backed role.
Pankaj Kapur in 'The Blue Umbrella': To say that Nandkishor is one of this great actor's worthiest performances should be testimonial enough, for its been no ordinary career. Traversing the path of cunning / wily to sympathetic over the course of 3 hours is not something that many actors can even dream of. Pankaj makes it look oh-so remarkably simple.
Priyamani in 'Paruthi Veeran': A knockout performance by an actor nobody had rated very highly - hell, not even thought of as meriting attention. As the feisty, fiery Muthazhagu, she simply sets the screen alight. The scenes where she stubbornly refuses to shed so much as one tear as her father thrashes her, and of course the shocker of a climax are her best scenes; but her whole obstinate demeanor, though a tad reminiscent of Abhirami from 'Virumandi', had me very, very impressed.
Jeeva in 'Katrathu Thamizh': The protagonists of Kathrathu Thamizh', and to a lesser extent, the one of 'Veyil' too are losers. Both of them have been beat by life, and the failure of their lives stare at them in the face. While Pasupathy in 'Veyil' is completely defeated and wallows in self-pity, Jeeva unravels and becomes mentally unhinged. Though I do not completely agree with the film, Jeeva has turned in a truly remarkable performance, further strengthening the belief that he is one of the most talented young actors around.
Aditya Shrivastava in 'Black Friday': Contrary to most reviews, I thought this performance was miles ahead of Kay Kay's in the movie (which has my vote for movie of the year). As Badshah Khan simmered with frustration, rage, resentment and finally hopelessness, I quite forgot that this was a performance. A comeback of sorts, after 'Satya'.
Kareena Kapoor in 'Jab We Met': Kareena's been trying comedic roles for quite sometime now. In fact, going by the likes of 'Khushi' and 'Mujhse Dosti Karoge', she'd been trying a bit too hard. She finally gets the balance just right. As the loud, self-obsessed Geet, she's a scream, and is also a perfect foil to Shahid, who tries hard to look quiet and dignified.
SRK in 'Chak De India': It is easy to dismiss this performance as 'for once, he just underplayed, yaar!'. Yes, he did, and to great effect too. SRK was every inch Kabir Khan, the haughty but patriotic hockey coach who wanted to live his dream through his team. Unlike some of our other superstars, SRK proves that his acting chops have not deserted him yet, nowhere more than in the scene where his eyes mist up in the climax.
Darsheel Zafary in 'TZP': He literally carries the film on his shoulders. Consider what a more obnoxious child actor, like Master Raju of yesteryear, could have done to this film.
Sarika in 'Parzania': This is a performance that hits you in the gut - all the more, since you don't expect it of her. They should have given her both the National Awards - the male and female versions !
Vinay Pathak in 'Bheja Fry' & 'Aaja Nachley': The discovery of the year, even if he did not go around dropping his towel. Remarkable comedic skills, a chameleon-like ability to switch personalities, and an endearing screen presence - this rotunded, cherubic actor has already displayed more skill than many 'heroes' have in a lifetime.
Anurag Kashyap, Lal Jose, Balaji Sakthivel & Aamir Khan: For 'Black Friday', 'Arabikatha', 'Kalloori' and 'Taare Zameen Par' respectively.
Gautham Menon: I was horrified and insulted by 'Pachaikili...'. Is this the best this promising director could make of the promising 'Derailed' by James Seigel? He's gone down a few notches in my estimate.
Mohanlal: In 1992, Mohanlal's filmography read 'Sadayam', 'Kamaladalom', 'Aham', 'Rajashilpi', 'Adwaitham', 'Suryagayathri' and 'Vietnam Colony'. In 2007, it reads 'Chotta Mumbai', 'Hallo', 'Alibhai', 'Rock N Roll', 'Flash' and the sole grace, 'Pardesi'. Add to this the excreable 'RGV Ki Aag', and a controversial interview, and you have the writing on the wall: the humiliation of one of the greatest actors the Indian screen has ever seen.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra & Sanjay Leela Bhansali: Like guru, like protege. Trust the duo to hype up their films, deliver pretentious crap, and then howl at 'stupid audiences & critics' for not being 'intelligent enough'. VVC needs to shut up and hand over the directorial baton to Raju Hirani, while Bhansali needs to lose all this baggage of being a 'sensitive' director, lose chamchas like a certain Mr.Jha, and start afresh (not plagiarizing would be a definite start).
Yashraj Films: All glamor and no content makes the Chopra a bad boy. As always, SRK rescues them with 'Chak De', but barely.
Konkona Sen: For proving that even she can act badly. Don't believe me? Watch 'Aaja Nachley'.
Lohithadas: For that monstrosity called 'Chakkaramuthu'. Its unfathomable how a writer who gave us the likes of 'Thaniyavarthanom' and 'Kireedom' could fall to such levels of mediocrity, nay ineptitude.
Priyadarsan: The Mallu readers already know why!
Preity Zinta: All that collagen injections are showing. The perky gal from 'Dil Se' has been replaced by the irritating, collagen-sustained, pouting creature in 'Jhoon Barabar Jhoom'. Lara Dutta, with that delicious French accent, showed her a thing or three about comedic timing.
Nisha Kothari: As I'd suggested elsewhere, she should migrate to 'Malluwood' and give poor old Shakeela a run for her money.
Ram Gopal Verma: 'RGV Ki Aag' alone would have helped RGV make the bottom of the heap. He also gave us 'Go' and 'Darling'.
I regret to say that I have not watched a lot of (supposedly) good films like 'Ore Kadal', 'Pardesi' etc. I daresay, if I'd watched these (and other) films, my list might have been altered.