“Indian jail manuals have not changed in the last 100 years,” said actor Sanjay Dutt. “I was locked up in my cell from 12 noon to 7am the next day on Independence Day, because the manual says so, even though I, as an Indian, wanted to celebrate my country’s Independence Day.”
Dutt was in conversation with HT Advisory Editorial Director Vir Sanghvi on the last day of the two-day Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
Dutt opened up like never before, and spoke about his days in prison and his family’s connection with politics. He recalled how his father, veteran actor and MP, the late Sunil Dutt, broke down when he saw his son in the ICU of a government hospital, handcuffed to the bed.
“He held my hand, and said ‘son I can’t do anything’. It was the most difficult moment for me seeing my hero so sad,” said Dutt.
The actor also remembered his special prison friends — a little sparrow and a big rat. “It took me three weeks to get the sparrow to eat from my hands,” he said. “I named the rat General Saab because he would come everyday at 11pm, collect food and leave sharp at 12.15.”
But the real surprise was his wife Maanyata who spoke up in response to a query by Sanghvi. She had some strong words for the media. “Thanks to the media, I couldn’t even meet Sanjay when he was in jail. I was mobbed and I was told I should not try and meet him,” she said. “There should be a code of conduct for the media because the media can destroy anyone it wants to. So often, we’ve been falsely accused by people who don’t even know us.” Sanju baba had the audience in splits when he asked Sanghvi, “One second, are you interviewing me or her?”
But after the banter it was time for some serious questions. Sanghvi asked Dutt if he would like to join politics. “I want to serve the nation,” was the reply. “I can do that without joining any party. I am doing it in my own way by working for the Nargis Dutt Cancer Foundation and for the cause of street children.”
He added: “I have 10 years more to go in acting. Maybe after that.”