BADNAM BASTI (Alley of Ill Repute)
Director: Prem Kapoor
83 min / 1971 / India / Hindi / Narrative Feature
Considered as one of first Indian films to explore same-sex relationship, Badnam Basti centers on a love triangle between two men and one woman on the margins of society.
Bus driver Sarnam Singh (Nitin Sethi), who moonlights as a bandit saves a woman Bansari (Nandita Thakur) from being raped by another dacoit. She falls in love with him but he cannot keep his promises to her as he is jailed for another petty crime. Once out, he searches for her but cannot find. Sarnam meets a young lad Shivraj (Amar Kakkad). Sarnam hires Shivraj as a cleaner and the two become intimate. As fate would have it, Bansari returns in Sarnam’s life but now she is living with Sarnam’s own crony, Rangile, who has paid the highest bid for her at the auction in a village fair. Shivraj also deserts Sarnam to get married to a girl to lead his life ‘normally’. Sarnam feels besieged at the turn of events in his life, but the life still has few more surprises stored for him.
An adaptation of Hindi novel Ek Sadak Sattaavan Galiyan by Kamleshwar Prasad Saxena, the film was extensively shot on real locales at Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh. The film is noted for its adventurous editing, strong performances, neorealist style, and the music by Vijay Raghav Rao, one of postcolonial India’s most innovative composers. Although Badnam Basti was recut and rereleased in 1978, it has since faded into obscurity. The film was presumed lost until recently when it was accidently found after 49 years of hiding in an archive in Berlin.