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Sanjay was tensed, but positive

By: Upala KBR, Mid-Day
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Few people know that even though Sanjay Dutt and Rhea Pillai have divorced, they still remain close friends. Dutt continues to be an important part of Rhea's new family with husband Leander Paes and daughter Aiyana. In an exclusive heart-to-heart with HiTLIST, Pillai recounts her emotions post Dutt's verdict in the 1993 serial bomb blasts case.

What was your reaction when you first heard the news?
Initially, I was shocked to hear that Sanjay had been found guilty. However, when I spoke to Satish (Maneshinde, Dutt's lawyer) he told me that it was a conviction under the Arms Act and not TADA, so I heaved a sigh of relief and was really happy. Of course, I was hoping for an acquittal but this is the next best thing.

Were you apprehensive before the verdict came out?
No, I wasn't. I had a very good feeling about the whole thing, which I communicated to Sanju time and again. This feeling defies logic, because the conviction rate in the case is over 80 per cent. Now that it has gone fairly well, it feels great.

Did you speak to Sanjay today?
I spoke with him before and after the verdict. Right now, he's still trying to figure out the ramifications of the situation. He was stressed, but simultaneously positive.

You were there with Sanjay during the darkest moment of his life. How did you cope?
You just do, you know. It's been emotionally draining for all of us, but it is nothing compared to what Sanjay has been through. Considering that he spent 18 months in jail, there was a lot to be done and understood by all of us. But it all boils down to having faith in Sanjay, myself and believing right from the start that he is completely innocent. I am still with Sanjay...

What do you mean by that?
Although we agreed to disagree on our views about our marriage, we remain steadfast in our belief in each other. I am always there for Sanjay, with the support of both Leander (Paes) and Aiyana (her infant daughter). It's difficult for most people to understand our relationship, but even though Sanjay and I have divorced, we remain friends and will continue to support each other. Sanjay and I separated four years ago, but that kind of love doesn't change, it grows deeper, wiser and more mature. That's unconditional love.

Did you ever feel frustrated when Sanjay was in jail?
Yes I was, but that frustration was never towards him. Actually, I think it was confusion, as we were trying to understand what was going on. There was confusion about the system too. Anybody who knows Sanjay knows that he is an amazing human being. You can't call him a terrorist. That's a crime in itself. That the honorable judge, P D Kode, acknowledged this is very heartening, even though the verdict has come over a decade later.

How has Leander reacted to the verdict?
Lee has been amazingly supportive. He was very happy when he heard about it. He got to know about it before I did. He was the one who called me up and told me the good news.

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