- Director: Prem Kapoor
- Writer: Prem Kapoor
- Producer: Prem Kapoor
A massively important piece of cinema...India's first film to address 'sexual fluidity'...a more appropriate word is...bisexuality.
Lost for almost 50 years, it was discovered in 2019 and restored...and, it really is a manic and erratic piece of filmmaking!
Filmed over 28 days in 1971...when India's New Wave was emerging and Bollywood was going through its own metamorphosis...Badnam Basti had a brief release and was duly forgotten about. Now...that may be down to the particularly taboo subject matter...and/or, with reference to this print, it's just not a very good film!
Film historians will probably be seething at such a comment...but, this bizarre, melodramatic love triangle is a hectic assemblage of scene after scene with no flow whatsoever...making the story a little hard to follow.
Indeed...it is packed to the rafters with content, some of which will absolutely appall...the buying and selling of women...strangely, not a taboo subject as homosexuality was, in India, then...as it still is now.
Modernity has given this film a new lease of life, film historians will salivate...audiences may wonder what all the fuss is/was about.
Cinematically important? Yes. Cinematic? No.
The film is based on Hindi writer Kamleshwar Prasad Saxena’s first novel Badnam Basti, which was later re-titled Ek Sadak Sattavan Galiyan. Published in 1957, the novel was featured in the prestigious Hindi literary journal Hans in 1956. The book describes the bond between Sarnam Singh, a bus driver who moonlights as a dacoit, and a young boy Shivraj, whom he hires as a cleaner. Chapter nine details the sexual nature of their association: “When Shivraj woke up in the morning, he found Sarnam lying with him in his cot. His hand was resting on Shivraj’s chest. It was nothing new for Shivraj and Shivraj should have got accustomed to it by now.”