NEW DELHI (AP) — Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt said freedom was "the most amazing thing" after he left prison Thursday upon completing his five-year sentence for illegal weapons possession in a case linked to the 1993 terror attack in Mumbai.
Dutt's wife Maanyata and noted filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani greeted the actor as he came out of the prison gate in the western city of Pune. He saluted the Indian national flag at the prison building and thanked fans, including some who came in person to see him, for their support. "There is no easy walk to freedom, my friend," he told reporters before leaving in a chartered plane.
At his home in Mumbai, he told reporters that he fought legal battles for 23 years to be a free man. "I wanted to taste freedom. It's not sinking in yet. To be free is the most amazing thing."
He said he learned small jobs like making paper bags and entertained other prisoners by spending time as a radio jockey while in prison. He said he plans to spend his time looking after his family and working in films.
Dutt, 56, asked journalists not to describe him as a terrorist as he was sentenced for firearms offenses. His sentence was reduced by 144 days for good behavior.
Prosecutors said Dutt's guns came from underworld gangs involved in the 1993 terror attack, when 13 powerful bombs packed into cars and scooters exploded across the city of Mumbai, India's financial capital and home to the Hindi-language film industry. The bombs killed 257 people and injured 720.
Dutt has said he knew nothing about the bombing plot and wanted the guns to protect his family after receiving threats during the religious riots that preceded the bombings. His mother was Muslim and his father Hindu.
His mother Nargis Dutt and father Sunil Dutt also were top Bollywood actors.
Sanjay Dutt became wildly popular for his Hindi film roles as a reformed thug who follows the teachings of pacifist freedom fighter Mohandas Gandhi.