As an angry bitter cranky old Cheapo, there are a lot A LOT A LOT of things that piss me off. You can easily make an alphabetised inventory of all them.

And if you do make an alphabetised inventory, this will come pretty low down the order, although when it comes to a numbered list in order of annoyance, this is pretty much near the top.

Am talking of vandalism…..though truth be told, the term has always, well, pissed me off

Nowadays, by Vandalism people refer to morons defacing paintings, sculptures, museums exhibits, or heritage buildings by signing their names etc on them. There’s a theory that the term comes from Alaric’s sack of Rome (Rome’s first home defeat).

But its wrong, its wrong people.

You see Alaric, the dude who sacked Rome, wasn’t a Vandal at all – he was a Visigoth.

In 394 AD Alaric joined the army of the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius in defeating Arbogust at the Battle of Frigidus. 10000 of his 20000 men died in the battle but the Emperor did not acknowledge the effort and sacrifice. So, Alaric left the army, became the united leader of the Visigoths and between 395 AD and 400 AD opened 50 shades of whoopass on the Eastern Roman Empire. He sacked Athens and destroyed Sparta, Corinth, Argos etc.

In 408 AD, the Western Roman Emperor Honorius suspected one of his rivals to have made a deal with Alaric. Being a calm, cool, collected individual he killed the rival and his family and incited the Roman peopel to kill the wives and children of the Goth soldiers serving in the Roman army. Tens of thousands of women and children were massacred. Result – Alaric invades Italy and 30000 Goths leave the Roman army and join him to get revenge. Between 408 and 410 AD he sieged Rome thrice. In the first, he got massive quantities of ransom booty (5,000 pounds of gold, 30,000 pounds of silver and huge quantities of silk and pepper) and freed all 40000 Goth slaves.

He entered and sacked Rome in 410 AD. The looting continued for 3 days but compared to the what used to happen during those days, it was positively angelic. There was no widespread burning or destruction; he nominated two places – basilicas of St.Peter and St.Paul as sanctuary and left those seeking shelter there in peace; and even though the Roman mob had massacred Goth women and children, there was no mass genocide or rape in retaliation.  However, apart from the gargantuan quantities of loot, he also enslaved lots of Romans.

So as you can see, he should not be associated with wanton destruction.


Then there is Genseric – the leader of the Vandals. Originally settled in Spain, he successfully transported all 80000 of his people to North Africa…where he first defeated a Western Roman army, then defeated a combined Weatern and eastern Roman army and in 439 AD conquered Carthage.  By 442 AD he had also conquered Corsica, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia etc. The Roman Emperor Valentinian was forced to offer peace treaty to him thereby giving the Vandal nation a status as an independent kingdom.

In 455 AD, Petronius Maximus killed Valentinian and declared himself the emperor. Genseric went into not on my watch mode and invaded Rome and thus Rome had 99 problems and a Vandal most definitely was one.

For fourteen days and nights the Vandals looted Rome and enslaved its population. However, the reputation for wanton brutal destruction was unfair. The Pope Leo 1 had pleaded Genseric not to destroy the city and Genseric had agreed. As result only a handful of buildings was destroyed. However, there was indeed some damage to objects of cultural significance such as the Temple of Jupiter as the Vandals stripped away the gilt bronze roof tiles.

It was also pretty much the last time Romans fought. They all retired from warfare and for the last 1500 odd years have been drinking coffee and loitering around on their Vespas saying ciao [They did make an exception for a few months under Garibaldi to beat up the French…but lets face it the French are French and so they don’t count…..later Mussolini tried to raise arms and go the military route, that disturbed the Romans so much that they revolted, hanged him and went back to loitering on their Vespas.]


Most of the Vandals’ bad reputation apparently comes from Pliny the Elder’s accounts [historians though claim that he had a made a bit of a horlicks about things, unlike his nephew Pliny the Younger, who was apparently Tacitus’s friend and something of a dog’s bollocks.]

If you want to read more about this fascinating group of people, to start off I recommend


So we can say that the Vandals’ vandalism has been widely exaggerated. There is a however a group of people who are hell bent on destruction; destroyer of civilisations, desolators of the planet and converters of everything into crap, I am of course talking of the bangals.

So it should not be vandalism but rather bangalism.


Anyway, why am I rambling about vandals all of a sudden?


Because a national treasure is getting systematically vandalised nay bangalised and nobody is doing anything about it.

Am talking of Byomkesh Bakshi – Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s immortal creation. Byomkesh was the first Indian detective. He was the quintessential Bengali middle class bhadralok and the yardstick by which all subsequent literary heroes were measured. Till Feluda came along, we all wanted to be Byomkesh. The name meant something. Satyajit Ray’s brilliant Chiriakhana with the late great Uttam Kumar as Byomkesh only enhanced that reputation and mystique and aura. Doordarshan (so often the vessel of shite and the personal fiefdom of a particular dynasty and party) got it bang on right with the Byomkesh series early in the 1990s with Rajat Kapoor playing the titular role. It was a bit theatrical and the production budget seems to have been quite low, but it retained the spirit.

Here, feel the nostalgia (and don’t forget to thank the Fatman) –


But, plans are afoot to destroy that reputation, that legacy.


First there was that hideously grotesque and repulsive monstrosity of a film by the darling of our left wing “secular” liberal intelligentsia Rituparno Ghosh. That sickeningly abhorrent odious abomination Satyanweshi was perhaps the worst movie ever made in India. But of course our left wing “secular” liberal intelligentsia did not have the cojones or the inclination to criticise one of their own.


And then there is this


As always I have issues.

1. Look I don’t mind some changes – the recent BBC Sherlock starring the Cumberlord is awesome, the Johnny Lee Miller wala, though not as good, is still interesting, especially the concept of Jane Watson. But both have stayed true to the character of the Man. The stories are different, the settings are different but Sherlock Holmes is still Sherlock Holmes.

Making up new stories is one thing, but the cardinal rule not to be broken is don’t change the character of the Man. Byomkesh Bakshi should remain Byomkesh Bakshi, NOT A JAMES BOND WANNABE.


2. Why the Bendtner are there sword wielding Oriental types in Kolkata? The orientals throughout Kolkata’s history have always been peace loving people hell bent on consuming wontons, not on wanton destruction.


3. In the stories, Satyabati, Byomkesh’s wife is dark skinned – normal Bong dark skin, kind of like Satarupa…..dusky I think is the word.

Dibakar Banerjee has cast a fair skin girl, presumably because dark skin girls don’t look good on screen……we Indians are racists, there’s no two ways about it.


4. For some reason ,the trailer shows a woman taking off her clothes.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love women taking off their clothes; they should be allowed to do it anywhere and everywhere at all times. The world will be a better place and there will be no war if only women took off their clothes all the time.


That being said, why exactly is it there in this film? Kolkata of 1940s was not exactly noted for its liberal attitude towards the female form. None of the stories have any kind of sexual tone in it (though being married with a baby suggest that Byomkesh and Satyabati certainly indulged in horizontal tango) so why is there a need to show it here?

Should financial considerations override all aesthetics?

Let’s face it ,the audience for this movie would be Bongs, non-Bongs of a certain age who remember the Doordarshan series or have heard about it from their Bong friends, Rajput’s fans, Dibakar Banerjee’s fans and some other curious people if the film gets critically acclaimed.

The fans who made Chennai Express and happy New Year superhits are not going to watch this movie, so what’s the point of fair skin heroine and (semi)nudity?? And if titillation for the sake of footfall and money is the aim then why not go the whole hog and employ Sunny Leone (has awesome screen presence, facial expressions and voice modulation)?

Come on Dibakar Banerjee, the nation needs to know.


One thought on “Vandals

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