Friday, July 29, 2011

Farewell, Harry Potter!

Goodbyes are never easy. It’s been a decade since we were introduced to the magic of Hogwarts and the enchanting world of witches and wizards. How little we knew about them before author J.K. Rowling took us on a fantasy trip! Yes, it’s escapist, perfect for those moments when you just want to crawl into a hole and die or for those blue days when all you want is something to make you feel good. Anything.

Enter Harry Potter. The boy who lived captured our imagination with his adventures and his best friends, Ronald Weasley and Hermoine Granger. When the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was launched, it was a passport to a world so magical that it would require seven installments to make the most of it. But, what makes Harry Potter a wildly successful franchise?

First of all, Harry is like just another kid dealing with real problems like any of us, before he realizes that he’s a wizard. Especially during the dark days in the later books, Potter has enough to deal with – expectations, challenges, loss and experience dilemmas which all of us are privy to. Next, it’s the characters which are etched out with such intricate details that you instantly feel a connection, either good or bad. And, the good vs. evil battle has always been one of our classic favourites, almost to the point of obsession. Add witty dialogues and sarcastic humour to the equation and what emerges is a mighty powerful concoction called Harry Potter.

The best part was that the cinematic translation was equally smooth. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, aided by some of the finest British actors brought the series alive. Yes, the books are always better but this is one of those very few series where the films are equally good. The consistency has been amazing, which justifies the craze which at times, seems almost unreal, like the Nargles.

In many ways, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2 was a fitting tribute. A closure for those who writhed with anticipation, wondering what happened next or how. It was a cathartic moment, watching a much grown up Harry and his friends save their world. And, bring back a time where the biggest fear was over the sorting hat and its decision. Director Yates isn’t interested in spelling it out. If you haven’t read or watch the earlier versions, chances are that you wouldn’t have a clue as to what’s going on. Don’t even bother.

However, Harry Potter isn’t complete without its villains. They may not be the epitome of goodness but they certainly added spice to what could have otherwise been a boringly drab tale. Harry Potter lives on because of its bad guys – the Dark Lord Voldemort and his death eaters, scheming Malfoys, insane Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and of course, Severus Snape, the Potions master. Little has been written about them, which is very unfair. They are as important to the series, as much as Harry, Ron or Hermoine. Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is a mighty wizard, a man who built his destiny and went on to destroy it. The Malfoys, a wizard pedigree are a proof of the fact that prejudices are a fixture in our existence, real or fictitious.

Finally, it’s Snape (Alan Rickman) who deserves a special credit. He’s the man who kept a watch over Harry, keeping him safe. His evil exterior had us fooled until the moment, in the final edition, where we discovered that Lily (Potter’s mother) was special to him. Special enough to die for. And, Snape’s sordid fa├žade and his subsequent anguish are really touching, to say the least.

Coincidentally, when Harry Potter surfaced, taking the literati by storm, leaving them pleasantly and sufficiently surprised, it was a whole bunch of children who grew up with the series. I was one among them. For us, Harry Potter is a very real presence in our childish imaginations. We believed that there was magic (and, we still do) and magical creatures. We gasped when Harry rode Buckbeak or cried when he lost his Godfather Sirius Black after their short tryst. We watched them battle dilemmas of the heart (we went through that too) and took solace over the fact that we were not alone.

But, what Harry Potter means to us is a totally new brand of fantasy, an imagination so vast that the very depth of it is staggering. It is the stories we grew up reading and one that will form an integral part of our culture when we, as parents, would read them to our children, bonding over the magic. Harry Potter has revolutionized our perception, taking a really special place in our bookshelf, DVD racks and most importantly, our hearts.