“Deceit is in my nature,” Aamir Khan’s Firangi says in the trailer of Thugs of Hindostan. “Trust is in mine,” Amitabh Bachchan’s Azaad retorts, before the two whip out their swords. As the superstars locked horns in their first appearance together on the screen, the journalists at the trailer launch in Mumbai on Thursday erupted into cheers.

“I have been working in the industry for 30 years and it has always been a dream for me to work with Amitji [Bachchan],” Khan said at the event. “I have not seen a film like Thugs... in the Indian screen, in terms of scale and mounting and quality. It has been a very new experience for me.”

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s magnum opus, set in 1795 when India was under the East India Company’s rule, chronicles the power struggle between Firangi Mallah, who works for the British, and Azaad. Also starring Katrina Kaif and Fatima Sana Shaikh, the period film produced by Yash Raj Films will be released on November 8 in 2D, 3D and IMAX formats. The film will also be released in Tamil and Telugu.

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Thugs of Hindostan (2018).

Contrary to reports, the film is not an adaptation of Philip Meadows Taylor’s Confessions of a Thug (1839), Acharya said at the trailer launch. “The film is not based on any book,” the writer-director explained. “Since there is the word thug in the title, it has been linked to a book.”

The film was born out of the idea of giving a twist to the period drama genre. “Whenever we have made period films, we have made reverential period films,” the filmmaker explained. “We wanted to make an irreverent film which has a chapter that is not very noble. We thought that might be interesting.”

Acharya and Khan kept the finer details of the plot closely guarded, but claimed that the film would mark a first in the Indian film industry in terms of calibre and scale. “As a team we have tried to do something that has probably not been attempted before,” Acharya said. “It is hard to get people to the theatre so we thought it would make it easier to bring in the audience if we had a spectacle.”

The film will also be high on action, Bachchan added. “There is not one part of my body that has not been broken,” he said. “I had to wear heavy armour, a pagdi, don long hair and fight with swords. And all the action happened in the rain... In the olden days we did not have to work too much as [without technology] a few stunts were not possible.”

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Thugs of Hindostan (2018).

Bachchan and Khan were supposed to star together in Indra Kumar’s Rishta in the late 1990s, but the project got shelved. “Due to many reasons, it [Rishta] was not made,” Khan said. “Since then I have been waiting for the opportunity.”

The actor said even being on the sets with Bachchan was an experience he cherished. “He is someone who is so gracious from the very first day I met him,” Khan said.

Bachchan returned the praise. “Brilliant actor aside, Aamir Khan is a producer, director, writer, music director, distributor, screenplay writer and a marketing genius,” he declared.

Kaif, who stars as the glamorous Suraiyya, has previously worked with Acharya and Khan on Dhoom 3 in 2013. “He is a phenomenal director to work with,” she said. “Every time I work with him I am blown away by his vision and the spectacle that he wants to create. This will be a very special film.”

Katrina Kaif in Thugs of Hindostan. Courtesy Yash Raj Films.
Katrina Kaif in Thugs of Hindostan. Courtesy Yash Raj Films.

The actors ensured that the media interaction following the trailer’s unveiling stayed on target. When asked about actress Tanushree Dutta’s allegations of harassment against Nana Patekar, which she first made in 2008 and reiterated in an interview on Tuesday, Bachchan said, “My name is neither Tanushree nor Nana Patekar. How should I answer your question?”

Khan said he wouldn’t like to comment without knowing the veracity of the claims. “But I would like to say that whenever something like this does happen, it is a very sad thing,” he added. “Now whether this has happened, that is for people to investigate. I don’t think we can comment on that”

Bachchan’s response met with criticism on social media.