This is really Catherine’s idea, at least she is the one who put it together for me that Dustin Hoffman and Aamir Khan have similar reputations as nice guys who take their acting way way WAY too seriously. Dustin Hoffman made Tootsie partly to make fun of that about himself, and Aamir really needs to do the same thing.
Dustin Hoffman is a brilliant actor who can’t get hired because he is miserable to work with. He is so completely focused on the “truth” of his character and such a perfectionist that he drives his directors crazy. He isn’t a terrible person, he still has friends he cares about and so on, just has no perspective when it comes to work. His good friend, an actress, is up for a role in a soap opera. He helps her run lines, and then has the idea of applying for the role himself just to prove to his agent that he can get hired. He dresses up as a woman and gets the part and then the money is so good, he keeps doing it. He also gets drawn in to playing the role, starts thinking seriously both about what the character he is playing would do in the soap opera and about what she would do in reality as that middle-aged actress who is serious about her career and gets no respect. Along the way, he/she falls in love with one of his co-stars who befriends “her” (seeing “her” as a funny smart inspiring older woman she is working with), and has another drunken blowhard co-star fall in love with “her”, and the sweet older father of the woman he loves fall for “her” as well. He finally decides the only solution is to tell everyone the truth and he does it during a live taping in a big dramatic monologue revealing that his character on the soap opera is secretly a man, and at the same time revealing he himself is secretly a man. The woman he loves is furious and slaps him. Months later he has gone back to working avant garde stage plays and they run into each other and she is friendly, and the door is left open for forgiveness and maybe love.
Now, for Aamir, imagine if it opens by running through barely fictionalized details of his life as he is in a meeting with his business manager? Including flashes of the actual films being referenced? His manager explains that because of his “vision” for his last movie, the studio lost millions and no one wanted to see a short lisping pirate (Thugs). He can’t keep making people wait while he travels India to get in character (3 Idiots), or grows his own mustache (Mangal Panday), or gains and loses 50 pounds (Dangal), or moves into his character’s apartment and doesn’t leave for 3 months (Dhobi Ghat). Aamir is furious and insulted, and tries to explain each of those choices, how it was the only possible way to get at the truth of the character. His manager finally loses patience and bursts out that no one wants “truth”!!!! They just want entertainment! Can he try that? Can he try being entertaining?
Aamir is all disgruntled and goes home, where he is living with his old friend and the scriptwriter on his last few movies, Saif Ali Khan. Aamir gets a call from another old friend, an actress whose career hasn’t gone as well as his, she is up for a part and wants his help reading lines. He cares about the people he worked with and immediately agrees. The actress, Juhi Chawla, shows up and they go through the lines together. She is up for a small part in the most popular show on TV, a long running family saga. She plays the mother-in-law of the younger bride in the household. Aamir helps her with her lines. And he has an idea, the producer of the show (Ekta Kapoor playing herself) also has a movie studio, he calls her up and tries to talk her into co-producing a movie with him. Ekta is patient and polite but finally bursts out that she doesn’t want to work with him, no one wants to work with him, no one even wants to see him onscreen any more, the audience will never be able to believe him as anything besides the irritating actor they have come to hate. This inspires Aamir to dress up as a woman and apply for the same role as his friend, since Ekta herself will be screening the actresses.
Naturally, he gets way way WAY too deep into the part. When he is doing the audition, he improvises perfectly and is so good, and so believable as a woman, that Ekta ends up hiring him. He calls his manager to have him lie for him, his manager reluctantly agrees just because they need the money since all his savings went towards covering the losses of his last big movie. Aamir on set starts to do the same irritating perfectionist things as before, but now that he is a woman and a lowly soap actress, it is harder, he has to learn to work with other people instead of just bullying them into it, improvise and prove his idea is the right one.. The audience loves it, his character (the mother-in-law who won’t take disrespect from her son-in-law or his family) quickly becomes popular. And the woman playing his daughter in the show, a long time lead actress in the “spoiled pretty younger sister-in-law of the heroine” role, loves working with him and they become friends. Let’s say this is Radhike.
Aamir’s career is, weirdly, taking off. He gives interviews to fan magazines and youtube shows in character as a woman, along the way he and Saif end up having to pretend to be in a live-in relationship, Saif playing the loving boy toy to Aamir’s mature woman character. Saif and his business manager are the only ones who know the truth and keep kind of trying to wake Aamir up, make him think about how impossible this is. But Aamir is totally lost in the character now, having weird conversations with Saif about how he thinks “we shouldn’t get married, because it would be letting down my fans, we should keep living together because it will leave me free to pursue my career instead of tying me down as a wife”.
He finally begins to wake up when Radhike invites him to spend the weekend visiting her family out on their family farm, he spends time with her very nice loving widower father Anil Kapoor. But it is all beginning to spin out of control. He is losing track of himself versus the character he is playing. His friendship with Juhi is in trouble as he never seems to have time for her. He hates watching Radhike be abused by her unappreciative boyfriend, director Anurag Kashyap in a cameo appearance, but he can’t speak up for himself because she thinks he is a woman. And then nice Anil Kapoor proposes to him and it gets even more complicated.
Finally, in one epic hilarious scene, while for once they are broadcasting the show live, he gives a long speech revealing who he really is. In the aftermath, his manager and the studio work together lying to the media that it was a planned publicity stunt all along, Ekta greenlights his weird new movie written by Saif Ali Khan. Juhi forgives him when he goes to her and begs her to direct his new film, saying that he knows she can do it, she used to work the camera and give him acting tips whenever they worked together, she was always meant to direct and not act and only the blindness of the male oriented industry kept her from it (maybe in their earlier scenes together, he gets frustrated when she talks about what all the other actors will be doing and how the shot will look instead of focusing on her lines, seeing it as a flaw that she sees the big picture instead of as a sign that she wasn’t meant to be an actress). Even Anil Kapoor forgives him after they have an awkward conversation agreeing to never discuss the misunderstanding. Only Radhike is still furious and refusing to talk to him. Until he offers her a role in his new film too. She takes it, because it is good for her career, but makes it clear she still hates him. On the set of the new movie, Juhi is directing and Radhike is co-starring, and they both listen to Aamir’s ideas but also shut him down when he goes to far, and he listens to them. After a difficult shoot, the movie releases and is a solid hit thanks to the balance struck between Aamir’s artistic vision, and Radhike’s insistance on her character getting a good part too and Juhi’s insistance on the film being strong all on its own. At the celebration party, Aamir thanks Ekta and Juhi and Radhike, and then turns it into a speech about how he learned to be a better actor and a better man by playing a woman, digs into the deeper meaning of his charade, and finally convinces Radhike to forgive him as she sees he wasn’t just tricking her for fun.
Isn’t this the perfect movie for this point in Aamir’s career? The man has to learn to laugh at himself, or he is going to spontaneously combust from stress. Or else be stoned to death by his frustrated collaborators and angry audience.