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'In 13 years last night was the first time he slept without tension'
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November 29, 2006

A day after a mixed verdict that cleared him of any role in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts but convicted him for illegal possession of arms, actor Sanjay Dutt's [Images] Pali Hill residence in Mumbai's western suburb of Bandra was a picture of calm.

A few friends and wellwishers were present at the Dutt residence, with the actor's younger sister and Congress member of Parliament from Mumbai North-Weset Priya Dutt was thanking them for their support.

Priya spoke to Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf on how her elder brother and her family dealt with the tough times.

Twenty four hours later, what is Sanjay Dutt doing now?

He is sleeping. I think this is the longest he has ever slept in his lifetime.

How was the situation during last night's dinner, the family's first since the verdict?

The family got together and we met some friends.

But, there must have been some discussion about the case?

There was no discussion. Sometimes words cannot express feelings and that was how it was for all of us. There was just a sense of relief. We all were speechless. The word 'terrorist' was dropped from the judgment and that was the biggest relief to us. We all knew that he was not a terrorist but that statement meant a lot to us. It is too early for us to celebrate at this moment because the legal battle is still on.

After being discharged, who did Sanjay Dutt call first?

It was an emotional moment for him. He called Trishala, his daughter. In the US, it was 2 am and she was watching the news with her grandparents. Sanjay then spoke to her.

What else did Sanjay do last night?

He went to sleep early. As I said, after 13 years, last night was the first night when he slept without any tension.

How much do you and Sanjay miss your father [the late Sunil Dutt, actor-turned-politician]?

My father had been a pillar of strength for all of us. He always protected our family. Yesterday, we all felt lonely when he was not here. I missed him a lot, but we knew he is around with us. He is still with us.

How has Sanjay Dutt changed as a person in the last 13 years?

These 13 years have made him mature and mellowed. He has become more reserved now.

What did he tell you after the judgment?

It was a nice and happy moment. We still have to face more. Yesterday, we didn't want to talk about anything. It was too much to handle. We had discussed enough before the judgment. Moreover, he had gone to sleep and still not woken up. The relief is yet to sink in.

What are the political implications for you?

I would never look at something like this in terms of whether it would help me politically. It is my family matter and I will never use that as my political tool.

Did any of Sanjay Dutt's fans do anything crazy after the verdict?

We have been bombarded with telephone calls and letters. We are getting prasads, and fan mail. I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has been with us during a time of crisis. I feel everybody's prayers worked for us.

Were you really threatened during the Mumbai riots?

Yes, of course. We were involved in relief work in the Muslim areas during the infamous riots of Mumbai in 1992-93. We were helping refugees and my father was actively involved in relief work. At that time, I used to be alone in the house and I personally got threatening calls. I remember my father was stuck on the roads for a day while shooting was on even as a curfew had been clamped all over the city. Those were horrible days. Mobs used to come in thousands and shout near our house, 'we will burn you'. I was the only one at home.

What else do you recall of those days?

I remember [actors and Sunil Dutt's neighbours] Dilip [Kumar] uncle and Saira [Banu] aunty were here and they used to tell me to come to their home. Later on, I found out that they too started getting threatening calls. I remember crowds used to stay awake the whole night. People used to keep a vigil in buildings and that was a horrible time of my life.

Your father stood for secularism and unity. How will you recall him at this happy moment in your life?

I feel India can progress only if it is secular. My father was a true patriot. For 13 years, he lived with the stain that
his son was a terrorist and an anti-national. It was the worse thing to happen to a man like him. If he were alive today, he would have been peaceful. I know wherever he is, he will be in peace. He loved India and did everything keeping the interest of the country in mind. I am happy that Sanjay has been absolved of this terrorist charge.

Did Sunil Dutt say anything about Sanjay before he died?

His passing away was too sudden. He didn't say anything to me about Sanjay but he did everything that he wanted to do in life. He had no regrets. The only thing he wanted to see was Sanjay being let off and if he were alive this would have been the greatest gift he ever got.

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