Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt was released from Pune’s high-security Yerwada Central Jail on Thursday morning, eight months shorn of completing his five-year sentence for his role in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts.
The 56-year-old Mr. Dutt has often been accused of being given preferential treatment during his prison term mired in controversy in which he spent more than three months on furloughs and paroles, The Hindu reported.
A posse of security personnel shielded Mr. Dutt as he emerged from the prison with a palpable sense of relief at 8:30 a.m. after fulfilling the requisite formalities.
There was a touch of drama as the actor, who was granted reprieve on grounds of ‘good behaviour’, saluted the prison on coming out and then trudged ahead with a large bag on his shoulders.
“There is no easy walk to freedom, my friends,” said a terse Mr. Dutt at the Pune airport, while straining to escape the battery of journalists.
Mr. Dutt was met by his wife Manyata, while director Rajkumar Hirani, who helmed him in the popular Munnabhai blockbusters, was there to greet him at the Pune Airport.
The actor flew to Mumbai in a chartered plane visit.
The actor was arrested in April 1993 and later convicted for illegal possession of an automatic assault rifle, a part of cache of arms and ammunition that landed ahead of the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts in which 257 people were killed.
In 2013, Dutt was sentenced to five years of imprisonment. He had already served 18 months behind the bars after being jailed in 1996, and so was ordered to serve the remaining 42 months. Dutt’s prison sentence has been mired in controversies due to the repeated paroles and furloughs he obtained.
“To be free is the most amazing feeling. For 23 years I have been waiting for this moment… for freedom. I did everything (followed the law). It’s a feeling that will take a while to sink in,” said Dutt, according to Indian Express.
Clad in a white kurta, jeans with a tilak on his forehead, a smiling Dutt also said, “I miss my father (Sunil Dutt) today. I wish he was alive to see this day…if he would have been (alive), he would have been the happiest person,” he said.
He went on to heap praises on his ‘best half’, Mantaya, “Whenever I was getting weak, she was my pillar of strength. I think she suffered more than me as she had to look after two kids, bring them up, take decisions,” said the Bollywood actor.
“She is not my better half, but my best half. Manyata is my strength,” he added, holding his wife’s hand who stood behind him during the press conference.
Sanjay Dutt told reporters that he learned small jobs like making paper bags and entertained other prisoners by spending time as a radio jockey while in prison. When asked about his earnings in jail, Dutt said in a lighter vein, “Like a good husband I gave all the money to my wife.”
He said now he would like to spend quality time with his family and kids.
On Justice P D Kode absolving him of the terror tag, “The court had said I am not a terrorist. That was a big thing. I wish my father was alive to hear this. Even the Supreme Court had endorsed it.”
On the criticism over being granted remission and multiple furloughs,“It’s a misconception (that he got preferential treatment for leaves). It has nothing to do with me being a celebrity as I was also not allowed to do many things. May be, it (celebrity status) went against me.”
On touching the ground and saluting the Indian flag upon walking out of jail, “I am proud to be an Indian, that is why I kissed the earth and saluted the tricolour when I came out.”
On his last day in jail, the actor said he did not sleep and he even did not have food for the last four days. “I was like I will be out of jail…not come here again (jail).”
On Ranbir Kapoor doing a biopic on him, he said “I love him.”