Mumbai: Sanjay Dutt, who was released from the Yerwada Central Jail in Pune on Thursday morning after serving a sentence for illegal possession of AK-47 rifle, said the feeling of being "free" is "the most amazing", but it is yet to sink in.
After spending a sleepless night full of anxiety, Dutt, sporting a stylised hairdo and a bearded look, came out of jail in casuals, to a rousing welcome by friends and family members.
While addressing the media outside his residence, Dutt said: "For 23 years, I wanted to taste freedom, and finally the day has come that I have. I walked out of jail as a free man, but it's not sinking in me. I know I will come to terms with it... It still feels like I am out on a furlough and parole.
"But just to be free is an amazing feeling."
Sporting a relaxed demeanour, the 56-year-old, who savoured a cup of tea first when he returned home, said he was missing his father, late actor Sunil Dutt the most.
"If my father was alive, he would have been the most happy person. His only fight was to see his son free. And today I can say, 'Baba I am free now'," said the actor, who after coming out of jail and visiting the Siddhivinayak temple, prayed at his mother Nargis Dutt's grave first and later folded his hands in front of his father's portrait at his Pali Hill residence.
At the media conference, he was flanked by his wife Manyata, who was emotional upon being asked about her sentiments on Dutt's return.
Dutt called her his "pillar of strength" and "best half", adding that his suffering was lesser than that faced by Manyata while he was in prison.
He also shared some tidbits about his experience in jail, saying that he has learnt how to make paper bags and how he enjoyed being a radio jockey at the jail. The Munna Bhai actor even quipped that "like a good husband", he gave the "hard-earned" money he made from the paper bags, to his wife.
Now, he is looking forward to spending time with his family and children, and "most of all" his work.
"I want to get back," he said on an emotional note at the conference, where his twins — son Shahraan and daughter — made a brief appearance, hugging and kissing their father.
The love of his fans was visible when he arrived home to a hero's welcome amid tight security. In fact, Dutt's Chal Mere Bhai co-star Salman Khan had personally sent bodyguards to provide security for him.
"Salman is my younger brother, and I will always pray for him," he said.