Now that he is out on bail how does Sanjay Dutt look back on the time he spent in prison and during the last six months what’s been the impact on his life and his outlook. Those are the issues Karan Thapar discusses with the actor on Devil’s Advocate.
Karan Thapar: Sanjay you have just been released on bail after a month in prison what is it feel like to be free?
Sanjay Dutt: Freedom is something which everybody takes for granted, it’s sad but it’s human nature to take freedom for granted but I think freedom is something which you can’t buy, as much of money you have, but its great to be free.
Karan Thapar:And when you lose it you value it even more.
Sanjay Dutt: You value it even more, absolutely.
Karan Thapar:You must have thought a lot about that moment when you would walk out of the jail. What was the first thing you did?
Sanjay Dutt: When I walked out, first thing I did was I thanked God. I looked around and that is freedom basically. It was great.
Karan Thapar: Even little things like trees and birds chirruping in the trees represented freedom and liberty.
Sanjay Dutt: Absolutely yes.
Karan Thapar:After a month in prison how easy is it to adjust to a normal life?
Sanjay Dutt: It depends on person. I think one should leave the past and move on and carry on with your daily activities, carry on with your work. I think past should be left behind and a person should move on.
Karan Thapar: So in a sense you said to yourself when you walked out of jail ‘I am going to forget what’s happened, I am going to consciously put it behind me and look forward.’
Sanjay Dutt: Absolutely, I just had to do that. Just put it behind and I had to start getting back to my work, the social work and whatever I do. I just had to get back to it.
Karan Thapar: Today, for the sake of your millions of fans I am going to ask you to just go back a little and tell us what was it like being in jail?
Sanjay Dutt: Jail is basically a reformatory centre. The criminals who go into jail come out reformed and its not a good place to be in. But if you look at the positive side there is the only connection with the God, which is direct. You are not in the daily rigmarole, you are just focused and its absolute great connection with the God.
Karan Thapar: So you spend a lot of time in jail thinking about God.
Sanjay Dutt: Absolutely, I do pray everyday but the kind of hours I used to sit in front of the mandir and praying was something amazing.
Karan Thapar: This is the mandir in jail?
Sanjay Dutt: Mandir in my room, which I made myself.
Karan Thapar: Tell me about your routine to begin with what time did the day start?
Sanjay Dutt: Day starts about 5 am or 5:30 am and there is the basic breakfast and tea and then I used to make chairs. I used to start making chairs at about 9 am and we used to have a break in the afternoon and then carry on in the evening.
Karan Thapar: When you say make chairs, did you do the wood work?
Sanjay Dutt: No, I didn’t do the wood work. I did the kandi (wickerwork).
Karan Thapar: Have you ever done it before?
Sanjay Dutt: Never done it before. I learnt it from an inmate there. It was pretty interesting.
Karan Thapar: Difficult to learn?
Sanjay Dutt: It was little difficult and it’s a great art actually.
Karan Thapar: And now can you do it perfectly?
Sanjay Dutt: I can.
Karan Thapar: Even almost with your eyes closed?
Sanjay Dutt: Absolutely.
Karan Thapar: Does it help when you are in jail to have a job that takes your mind off to distract you?
Sanjay Dutt: Well it’s very necessary and that’s what they do mostly in jail. They allocate jobs to prisoners. Some work in the kitchen, some work in the carpentry department, some in the clothing section. Yes, it does take your mind away.
Karan Thapar: I can see the Sanjay sitting in front of me has lost a lot of weight. Is that the impact of jail food?
Sanjay Dutt: It’s just the impact of all the stress actually.
Karan Thapar: You lose weight automatically.
Sanjay Dutt: You lose weight because there are so many thoughts which come into a person’s mind when a person is behind bars.
Karan Thapar: What was the food in jail like?
Sanjay Dutt: It wasn’t the best food but it was edible. It’s not bad, it’s pretty okay.
Karan Thapar: And vegetarian entirely.
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, vegetarian.
Karan Thapar: What’s the main meal, it was lunch or dinner?
Sanjay Dutt: Lunch and dinner, both.
Karan Thapar: And then what time does the day end?
Sanjay Dutt: Day ends at about 6 pm, when you would be locked up in your cell.
Karan Thapar: And is there a point of time when you are expected to be asleep or can you stay awake as long as you want?
Sanjay Dutt: No, you can stay awake. You can read your book.
Karan Thapar: Were you in a cell all on your own or did you share?
Sanjay Dutt: No, I was all alone in the cell.
Karan Thapar: Is it difficult being alone?
Sanjay Dutt: No, its like being in boarding school and stuff like that, it’s not an easy thing to be in jail but I pulled it off because of all these things.
Karan Thapar: How big was the room?
Sanjay Dutt: It’s a small room. It’s about 8 feet by 10.
Karan Thapar: And is it fairly basic, there’s not very much in the way of décor.
Sanjay Dutt: No nothing, it’s just absolutely empty. You have your bedding and everything, which was basic.
Karan Thapar: Is there a bed or do you sleep on the floor?
Sanjay Dutt: No, you sleep on the floor.
Karan Thapar: And am I right in some of the stories one hears that in fact the toilet facilities are in the room.
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, that’s when you are locked up otherwise when you are out in the yard you have toilets there too.
Karan Thapar: And are there guards constantly keeping an eye?
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, they have to be.
Karan Thapar: Is it easy to get yourself accustomed to being constantly watched and monitored?
Sanjay Dutt: It’s an amazing kind of job these guards do. What happens is that you spend so much of time that you start relating with them, they start relating with you. It’s not because I am an actor, it was with every normal prisoner. The human side comes out of it.
Karan Thapar: And it’s very nature of the circumstances in the relationship that builds up.
Sanjay Dutt: It does builds up.
Karan Thapar: So have you formed few good friendships with the people there?
Sanjay Dutt: They have been really nice people, very understanding and carrying people. When I first went there, you don’t feel hungry and they sat there and they said, ‘no you are going to eat.’ I said is it because I am an actor, they said no we do it with all prisoners. Everybody is the same. And it really made me feel good.
Karan Thapar: They weren’t intimidated by the fact that here and then it’s Sanjay Dutt, the great actor.
Sanjay Dutt: No, they got rid of that after a couple of days.
Karan Thapar: Were you conscious of the fact that you are an actor or did you pretty quickly forget that?
Sanjay Dutt: You have to forget it and you have to face it.
Karan Thapar: People, when they go to jail usually hope for anonymity. They hope that people won’t remember why they have been there. In your case not only does the world remember, they constantly talk about it. Does the fact that so much attention is focused on you help or does it disturb?
Sanjay Dutt: It’s both the things. It helps and it disturbs but what I look at was life and that was destiny and one has to go through it and face it like a man.
Karan Thapar: So you have to find in yourself the power to accept and to face the truth.
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, absolutely. I have to.
Karan Thapar: This is where God came in?
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, God is a very important factor in anybody’s life I think. But like I said I also had so much of time to connect.
Karan Thapar: You had a lot of visitors who came to see you like your family and friends. When you are in jail is it easy to meet people who come from outside? You know in the evening they will go back home and do what they want, but you also know that the doors will close around you. Is it easy meeting them?
Sanjay Dutt: It’s very necessary to meet them and stay connected with them, but it is not easy when they go. You can’t meet them everyday. You can only meet your family once a month.
Karan Thapar: But the pain comes when they go.
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, it does. It really does.
Karan Thapar: How important is it to control your emotions and thoughts in jail?
Sanjay Dutt: It is very important to cut the negative emotions out. Just go along with the daily work, stay positive, pray and be hopeful. One needs to have full faith in the judiciary. These factors are necessary and the bottomline is that you have to keep faith.
Karan Thapar: Did you ever cry in jail?
Sanjay Dutt: I never cried actually, but there were times when I used to think about dad and mom a lot. I just knew that they were going to be proud of me.
Karan Thapar: You spent Diwali in jail, what was that like?
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, that was a really sad moment of my life. I could not be with my family, I was locked up and I could see crackers bursting in the distance. I just wished I could be with my family. I prayed and meditated. I thought of dad and mom.
Karan Thapar: Is Diwali in jail a joyous occasion or is it actually painful because of captivity?
Sanjay Dutt: It is not a joyous occasion. You try to make it happy, but it is not at all happy. There is a good part and a bad part. The bad part is that you have to be locked up at a certain hour like at six in the evening whether it is Diwali or Independence Day. So, I used to wonder that if it’s Independence Day then why I am being locked up.
Karan Thapar: I know your father told me because you spent an earlier Diwali in jail in ‘94-‘95. He said that you had then said, ‘light one diya at home and I will light one in jail and the diyas will be the link between us.’
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, I did the same thing this year. Though, this time I didn’t tell my family but I did tell my father in my thoughts. I did it for him and I bet he must have done the same from up there.
Karan Thapar: Sadly Sanjay, this is only bail that you are out on. How do you cope with the fact that the sword in a sense still hangs on you?
Sanjay Dutt: See I don’t think about it. I might be out on bail but I have to do a lot of good work in the time that I have. I have to carry on the legacy, which my parents have left in the fields of social work and films. I will just be what I am.
Karan Thapar: What sort of things do you have in mind when you talk of social work?
Sanjay Dutt: I am already actively part of the cancer society my father started many years ago after my mother died. We raise a lot of funds, get equipments and do a lot for cancer patients. There is another group that I am involved in which is called Support. Sometimes I just like to be there and make people aware of street children who are into drugs. Support, the group, picks up these children and it is sort of a rehab centre. The kids are detoxified and the group tries to introduce the kids back to the normal world. The children are also given education. It’s an amazing initiative and I just hope that the Government looks into such issues in a more important way.
Karan Thapar: I get the feeling that during the time you spent in jail, you have come out with a motivation and determination to spend your time doing good work.
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, I mean I have always done good work. My parents have always taught me to do good work.
Karan Thapar: And now you are determined to do it more.
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, of course.
Karan Thapar: One of the things that happens in jail is that one has a lot of time with one’s thoughts. I get the feeling that the Sanjay in front of me today is a very different one from the man I interviewed last year. Am I right?
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, Karan you are right. That time I was quite shattered and I didn’t know what was going to happen to my life. Maybe I was emotionally very weak at that point in time. Like you said I did have a lot of time to think. I just looked at my problem as nothing compared to those whom I want to help. I mean like cancer or the street children that I was telling you about.
Karan Thapar: So, jail gave you an opportunity to put your own problem in perspective vis-a-vis the other people. And you suddenly realised that there were many more people who were suffering much more than you.
Sanjay Dutt: Absolutely. I mean you can see it in real when you see other people and talk to them.
Karan Thapar: In a strange way I get the feeling that jail has given you a fresh lease of strength, almost a new outlook on life.
Sanjay Dutt: It has. Either it makes you or breaks you, it depends on the person.
Karan Thapar: It has made you, isn’t it, in a way.
Sanjay Dutt: Yes.
Karan Thapar: You feel it inside you?
Sanjay Dutt: I do, I really want to reach out to people who are in need of help.
Karan Thapar: So, in a way jail has been a sad but a beneficial experience. It has helped you reach into yourself and understand things and help put things on priority?
Sanjay Dutt: Absolutely, it depends on a person. But it is not an easy thing. I mean I don’t understand many rules and regulations about the jail because the prison manual is about a 100 years old. And yet they are going along with it. I mean there is no communication, you can’t meet your family.
Karan Thapar: So, were there moments when you were a bit of a rebel especially when you began questioning?
Sanjay Dutt: I questioned myself like we have got 60 years of Indian Independence and yet we are living in the British era and with the same British manual which was left to prosecute Indians or to…
Karan Thapar: So, the jails are 60 years behind time.
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, I can’t forget that the jail manual is about 100 years old.
Karan Thapar: How easy is it to pick up the strings and just get on with it?
Sanjay Dutt: It is great to be back — I have been shooting, and it is very nice. It was the happiest day of my life when I started shooting a couple of days ago.
Karan Thapar: Being back under the arc lights, being an actor again means lot to you?
Sanjay Dutt: Yeah, it means a lot to me. It is something, which I love, and it was great being back.
Karan Thapar: A lot of people must be curious, who would want to know what jail is like. Are you happy to share your experience or do you in a sense want to put a veil around it and keep it to yourself and wish that they talked about other things instead.
Sanjay Dutt: I think it is better to talk about other things but I really don’t mind talking about jail. It doesn’t disturb me — I wish I could change the system in jail but I cannot do anything about that. I think if they think about it and try to change the system inside people would be much better.
Karan Thapar: After these spells in jail do you think you can be a star like any other star in Mumbai, revelling in the stardom. Or Sanjay Dutt will always be famous, but different?
Sanjay Dutt: Well I have always been different. I have always tried to keep a low profile but I don’t know somehow or the other it goes crazy. But I would like to be the way I am.
Karan Thapar: You don’t want to change?
Sanjay Dutt: No, I don’t want to change.
Karan Thapar: So in a sense, though you have been through a terrible time you found something about yourself in jail: a determination to work, a comfort and reassurance in God and a realisation that there are always people with worse problems.
Sanjay Dutt: Yes, there are people. If you look out of the window and just see you will realise that there are a lot of problems people have which are larger than mine.
Karan Thapar: So your verdict is: I hated jail and I don’t want to go back but I am happy I had the experience because it taught me something about myself.
Sanjay Dutt: I can’t be happy about jail — I really don’t want to go back there but as I said you have to look at it in a positive way instead of thinking why I was there or this and that. You have to change things around in jail and just say I have learnt from this experience.
Karan Thapar: Everything is a learning experience.
Sanjay Dutt: Yes.
Karan Thapar: Sanjay Dutt, a pleasure talking to you and stay safe.
Sanjay Dutt: Thank you.