Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Boy who lived

This is the re-post of an article I had written long ago, but never published. I noticed this post, and another one on Tintin in drafts. That too will get published soon! In the interim 4+ years since this was written a lot of Harry Potter's intricacies have escaped my mind. Point out if I have made any obvious mistakes, and you will have my gratitude.

21st of July, 2007 marked the end of an era. An era lasting 10 years, in which Harry charmed his way into the hearts of millions and created a parallel world for both the young and the not-so-young. A world as fascinating as it was unreal, a world of wizardly magic and human folly. Considering that Harry Potter is the most analyzed set of books ever, apart from the Bible, nothing I can say will shed any new light on the phenomenon. For that to happen, I will have to lay a confundus spell on my readers to make them forget all they had read about Harry Potter.

That said, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is a deserving end to the saga of the Boy Who Lived. Before the book was released, apprehensions were being raised whether JK Rowling will be able to tie up all the loose ends, and complete the quest of the remaining three horcruxes within a book of 610 odd pages. Needless to say, she manages beautifully, and the reader comes away fully satisfied, if not satiated.

Apart from the symbolic fight between good and evil, which of course was not invented by JRR Tolkien, there is very little that is similar between Harry Potter and LOTR. There are occasions where one of the horcruxes starts to act up due to its evil constituents (Lord Voldemort's soul, for the uninitiated) and one discerns some similarity to the evil ring, but that's where the superficial similarities end. However, there's much in the last 2 books and the final book that seems to echo the contemporary world. The phenomena of spreading lies about one's adversary, obfuscating the issue, putting ones own people in positions of authority would be recognizable to the denizens of all authoritarian societies, and many democratic societies (cough ... cough ... India).

Early this year the final installment of Harry Potter movie was dished to us. They called it Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. It will be safe to assume that the book was split into two movies to rake in more moolah for the studio. Deathly Hallows is not the biggest book in the Harry Potter saga. That honor goes to Order of the Phoenix - the angst ridden fifth book of the series. Yet Order of the Phoenix was made into a single, action packed, and relatively small movie famous for the death of Sirius Black and for the climactic battle between Professor Dumbledore and Voldemort.

Watching Deathly Hallows on the big screen in 3D was a bittersweet experience. It was the culmination of a ride that had begun in 1997 with the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. While we knew how the story is going to end, much before we reached the theatre, yet we had to watch the movie out of a sense of loyalty. There were some fabulous sequences in the movie that made us cheer until we went hoarse in the throat. The confrontation between Harry and Professor Snape at Hogwarts, and Harry shouting at him "How dare you stand where He stood?" made the most stoic of us go misty eyed. Professor McGonagall saying with a twinkle in her eyes "I have always wanted to use that spell" alone was worth the price of admission. Hermione's act as Bellatrix, and Griphook taunting her with "Good Morning? You are Bellatrix Lestrange, not some dewy eyed school girl" was another gem.

However, it was the climactic battle between Harry and Voldemort which was a letdown. The biggest farce was Voldemort giving a whoop of delight when announcing Harry's death to the school. Voldemort is THE evil guy, the second most powerful wizard of all time. Him beating Harry in a duel was never a big deal. If Harry was not under the protection of Professor Dumbledore, Voldemort could have made mincemeat out of him in the batting of an eyelid. If this was bad, what followed was worse. Harry and Voldemort start duelling, but unlike in the book, they duel in a private, secluded place with no one around to watch the battle of the century. And I cringe when I see Voldemort engaging Harry in hand to hand combat. From there it is all downhill. We know that tragedy has degenerated into farce, when we see Harry break the Elder wand and throw it down a hill - an act of sacrilege if ever there was one. This was a needless deviation from the book and it did not add anything to the story. I wonder why JK Rowling allowed this butchery of her book.

The final sequence was magical. When JK Rowling had said in her past interviews that she had written the final chapter of the Harry Potter saga right at the time of writing the first book, and kept it safe in a locker of an unnamed bank in London, I guess this is what she was referring to. A Daniel Radcliffe digitally enhanced to look older, and the rest of the gang have come to platform 9 3/4 to see off their children to Hogwarts. The youngest son of Harry, Albus Severus Potter, is being teased by his older siblings that he will be sorted into Slytherin when Harry steps in for the last poignant moment of the saga. He says to his son, I have named you after the bravest headmaster of Hogwarts, who was a Slytherin.

Hogwarts Express arrives, the movie ends, and with it ends a chapter of our lives. We will move on for sure, but a part of us will remain latched on to Harry Potter, to the boy who lived. Like a Horcrux Harry Potter will remain embedded within us. And decades later, we will be hard put to explain to our children what Harry Potter meant to us.

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