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Bollywood wouldn't be Bollywood without its leading ladies. Here are our all-time favourite starlets to grace the big screen

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Rani Mukherji Who else can play such diverse roles as a blind, deaf, mute (Black, 2005), a prostitute (Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, 2007) and a man (Dil Bole Hadippa, 2009). No surprise, Mukherji has earned countless Best Actress nods. Ranga Thangarajah is a contributor to ANOKHI Magazine (

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Rekha If there's one woman who can pull off wearing gold from head to toe, it's Rekha. Her career - now spanning 40 years - is mainly thanks to her ability to reinvent herself in every role.

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Nargis Nargis made more than 90 films before she died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer in 1981, just days before her son, Sanjay Dutt, made his Bollywood debut. But her legacy, which included an Oscar-nominated turn in the rural drama Mother India (1957), lives on at the National Film Awards, where the prize for best feature film, the Nargis Dutt Award, is named in her honour.

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Priyanka Chopra Bollywood bombshell and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra is everybody's amiable Desi girl. And although her voluptuous figure doesn't hurt, she's sustained her place in the film industry with solid work. In 2008, she won the prestigious National Film Award for her role in Fashion, where she plays an ambitious model striving to make it in a cruel and competitive industry, and she's received multiple awards for "hotties-with-hearts-of-gold" in other movies.

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Kareena Kapoor Born into the Kapoor film dynasty (India's version of the Barrymores), this actress has continued her family legacy in roles ranging from the superficially rebellious "Poo" in Kabi Khushi Kabhie Gham to a prostitute caught up in love in Chameli to an independent-minded medical student in 3 Idiots.

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Katrina Kaif The return of the British to India was applauded when English-born Katrina Kaif joined Bollywood. Since she started in 2005, the actress and model has become a favourite despite only a handful of commercial hits. Her special niche: A magnetic on-screen presence mingled with a sweet off-screen innocence.

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Madhuri Dixit Hindi cinema's most graceful leading lady made her Bollywood debut back in the 80s. But while she's now a mother of two, she continues to wow with a girl-next-door smile - and, most important, fluid dance moves.

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Meena Kumari Bollywood's "Tragedy Queen," Kumari is best known for her roles as an alcoholic wife in the 1962 film Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (still regarded as one of the best performances of Hindi cinema) and as a courtesan who falls in love with a local nobleman in 1972's Pakeeza. Devastatingly, her life off-screen soon came to reflect her troubled characters. She took her own life at the age of 39, just weeks after Pakeeza's release.

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Deepika Padukone Supermodel-turned-actress Padukone isn't just a pretty face. Her Bollywood chops earned her the lead opposite King of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan, in the 2007 blockbuster Om Shanti Om. And these days she's one of the most sought-after actresses in the film industry (as well as a brand ambassador for companies such as Maybelline and Levi's).

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Hema Malini Often called "The Dream Girl of Bollywood" - a reference to the film of the same name, where she starred opposite her eventual husband Dharmendra - this dancing queen rose to critical acclaim during the 70s. Today, she spends most of her time on charity work - but she does make the occasional film appearance.

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