BADNAM BASTI is the debut film by a filmmaker from the so-called Indian New Wave: Prem Kapoor. The artfully shaped musical melodrama, an adaptation of Kamleshwar Prasad Saxena’s eponymous story from 1957 (published in English as A Street With 57 Lanes), concerns a ménage-a-trois relationship. The wily truck driver and bandit Sarnam Singh, the beautiful Bansari, whom he protects from being raped, and the attractive Shivraj, who works in a temple and is later hired by Sarnam. The film is considered India’s first queer film. It briefly appeared in public in 1971, only to disappear immediately thereafter until it was rediscovered in the archive of the Arsenal in 2019. There are some indications of two censored versions of the film, while the 35mm single print of BADNAM BASTI presented here deviates from their documented length.
Introduction by Shai Heredia in relation to her current book project on Indian films in the Arsenal archive.