Trying to get Ajay Devgan to speak after a long day's shoot is like extracting teeth.
One has to coax him to discuss his new film, Prakash Jha's Gangaajal. "It is a very realistic film," he says. "It is about our society and how to tackle its problems. I play an IPS officer posted to a town in Bihar. He has to contend with people who don't abide by the law, and he has to fight to uphold the law."
Asked if the film is about the infamous Bhagalpur blindings when Bihar policemen sprayed acid into the eyes of undertrials in 1980, he says, "I have read about the Bhagalpur blindings but that has nothing to do with this film. There is just a passing reference to that incident. As far as [knowing about] Bihar society, I have learnt about it from Prakash Jha."
The shooting for Gangaajal began a fortnight ago at Wai in Maharashtra's Satara district. Gracy Singh (of Lagaan) plays Ajay's wife. Mohan Joshi, Mohan Agashe and Ayub Khan -- all of who acted in Jha's Mrityudand -- also star in the film.
Ajay is impressed by the locals of Wai: "I admire these villagers. They have been trained by Prakash's team but have acted like professionals."
He refuses to concede there are too many films being made on the police in Bollywood this year, only saying, "Prakash Jha is a great director. I struck a good rapport with him and like him. I believe in doing sensible cinema.
"I think I have been lucky to get good directors and good roles at the right time," he says shrugging off the question whether he is moving from romantic and comic hero to more serious roles. "I am not shifting any roles. I am open to all kinds of roles. I like good characters. I signed this film because of the character, script, director and authenticity."
The actor has certainly come a long way from his debut, Phool Aur Kaante. "Many people said many things," Devgan asserts. "They said whatever they wanted to. I worked hard and my work reflects that. I have no complaints."