Gandhi is with me: Sanjay Dutt said before leaving Yerawada prison

Thwarted in his attempt to donate his meagre prison wages, which amounted to Rs 440, Sanjay Dutt put the money back in his pocket and quipped he now had Mahatma Gandhi with him

Sanjay Dutt has done charity work running into lakhs in the past, so it was a more symbolic gesture when he told the prison authorities he wanted to donate Rs 440 — the grand total of his earnings from 3.5 years of making paper bags and khaki envelopes in jail. However, prison officials refused to take the money, saying they cannot accept donations from convicts.

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Fans swarmed around the actor after he was released from jail. Pic/Pradeep DhivarFans swarmed around the actor after he was released from jail. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

What he did next was very much like a scene from one of his movies — “Dutt took the money and kept in his shirt pocket. He said, ‘Mahatma Gandhi is with me’ ”, recalled an official in the prison industry department.

Photos: Sanjay Dutt is back home, Bollywood friends and family meet him

One of the many letters Sanjay Dutt wrote as he stayed up on his last night in prison
One of the many letters Sanjay Dutt wrote as he stayed up on his last night in prison

Sources said everybody at the jail will miss the jaadu ki jhappi he would give inmates whenever they were missing their families. Even on the night before he left, he did forget his fellow prisoners. Anxious to get home, Dutt didn’t sleep a wink the entire night, and used the time to write little letters of encouragement and appreciation for fellow inmates and others who had helped him.

“He had bought chart paper, soap, shampoo, powder pens and a ruler. Through the night, he was busy scribbling out letters on the chart paper. Dutt also wrote about some of his memories from prison. He kept asking for the time every 15 minutes,” said an officer deputed outside Dutt’s cell.

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He added, “Around 8 am, Dutt handed over around 50 colourful slips of chart paper to Superintendent Pawar, in which he had written letters. Some of them were for jail officials like constables and sentries, others were for those who volunteered to help needy prisoners.”

One such person who received a hand-written and signed letter from Dutt was Pune-based lawyer Aatish Landge, who is a volunteer with the Pune District Legal Service Authority (see pic).

“Dutt had kept his bag packed since Tuesday. By 7 am, he was ready to go out. He had cleaned his room and watered the sapling he had planted near his cell. Around 7.20 am, he was summoned by the prison authorities was taken to the administration room,” said the official.

Dutt’s biometrics were checked and he underwent a medical check-up.

“His weight was down by 10 kg and his waist was five inches smaller. Officials checked and gave him his belongings like his blanket, plate, mug and bucket,” said a jail official.

When Dutt’s name was announced and he began to exit, other prison inmates called out ‘Sanju Baba’ and clapped — this is a prison tradition for when an inmate is set free.

An official asked Dutt what his plans were, and the actor said, “For some days, I just want to be a father to my children. I need to give them justice first. In a couple of weeks, I will return to visit Dagadusheth Halwai temple.”

Dutt got back in shape for his release
A month ago, Dutt learnt that his release had been approved, and he began to work out and follow a better diet in preparation. “Twice a month, Dutt would get R2000 from his family, which he mostly spent on bidi, soap, chikki, milk, eggs, groundnuts and dry fruits. Since last month, he has been working out intensely. He also followed a proper diet and would just have milk, eggs and dry fruits. He said he did not want his children or fans to see the effect jail had had on him,” said a prison source.

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