Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Tryst with Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

The long awaited sixth movie in the series has finally hit the big screens after a Hogwarts special holiday, for filming, of two years. I picked up my first Harry Potter book years ago out of casual interest because all my friends were furiously under the spell of the Potter business. The Prisoner of Azkaban was an exhilarating read, a kind of thrill one gets on a roller coaster ride (sorry folks, those who don’t like it so much). After that, albeit in haphazard order (3, 2, 5, 1, 6, 7, 4), I went through all the Harry Potter books, liked them immensely and re-read them in their proper order all over again. Later, I also enjoyed reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard to my hearts content. They are written as captivating fairy tales with a moral at the end. Thank you, Ms. Rowling, for entertaining us thoroughly with your stories. I admire your work.

Then came the movies. I haven’t seen all of them. Since I liked the movie version of The Prisoner of Azkaban, I decided to see the fifth movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, that happens to be my favorite book in the entire series. It was a disappointment compared to my fascination for the book that I ended up reading several times.

I also liked the first book (Philosophers Stone). There is less magic and the story has a charm of its own. The child Harry sticking his wand into Voldemort’s nose, not knowing any better at that point.

Recently, I read about all the hype concerning the just released HP and the Half Blood Prince, and on a whim, decided to go and watch it. Well, it was worth it though not without a few hilarious consequences personally. Definitely, it is the most well made of all the movies. I hope the moviemakers will keep up the good work in the final edition as well.

In all my excitement and hurry to see it, we got hold of a ticket and entered the theatre right before the show, only to realize a bit too late that it was the Hindi dubbed version playing. More than a decade ago I had made the same mistake when I had gone to see Jurassic Park. Well, for a change, here was a Harry Potter speaking fluent Hindi and uttering spells in Sanskrit! Nir prakatam! I was in stitches, absolutely petrificus totalus in my seat!

The sixth story is different from the rest of the volumes. Harry and friends have grown up. They are almost adults. Voldemort does not appear directly. Harry and his friends do not face any exceedingly life threatening situations as such. Dumbledore meets a sad and abrupt end. This signals the end of fatherly protection for Harry who must face the world on his own henceforth. Potter and his friends are also young adolescents by now and are involved in a comical series of infatuations epitomized by the love struck and foolish looking Ronald Weasley. Ron fails to recognize long time friend Hermione as a potential candidate for his love. The stunning Hermione, a perfect combination of beauty and brains, who liked Ron, is naturally hurt at being unintentionally snubbed. She ends up going to the party with a guy she does not like. It had even slipped her mind to go with Harry just as friends. Their friendship grows a notch higher all the same as they find solace in each other. But when Ron is delirious in hospital after being poisoned, he keeps uttering Hermione’s name and not that of his girlfriend at that time. His girlfriend is angry and the infatuation ends there, but Ron surely is the lucky guy with a caring Hermione by his hospital bed.

The theme of the entire series is love. Love in various forms wins in the end as Dumbledore always believed. Even Snape was living the labor of his love. Dumbledore lives on with his message through the final triumph of Harry his favorite pupil. Harry does not use the killing curse to end Voldemort. He only defends himself with the incantation expeliarmus that is only meant to take away an opponents wand. Voldemort in his atrocious arrogance fails to remember that Harry had actually saved himself from the deadly curse in book four.

Harry Potter always finds his way into trouble and out of it too. He is the hero. He even wins Ron’s attractive sister Ginny’s heart after she broke off with her boyfriend. Ginny already had a secret liking for Harry since she first saw him at her own house.

Harry and Hermione are clearly the two main characters in the story, as in the rest of the series. The remarkable thing is that they don’t end up as lovers but continue as the best of friends. Hermione is critical of Harry who suddenly starts doing well in his Potions class by just following the notes in an old textbook by the Half Blood Prince. The upright and hardworking Hermione clearly does not approve of such tactics and shows her evident displeasure. Then comes the Quidditch match as the new goalkeeper Ron has an attack of nerves. Harry gives him a drink with a magic potion for good luck that he has earned from Professor Slughorn before. Hermione is furious at such dubious tactics, but Harry wins her over, showing that he had not used even a single drop of the potion but only pretended to have done so to give Ron confidence. The trick had worked as Ron did some heroic goalkeeping thinking that he had actually drunk the magic potion. Hermione is impressed.

In the end, Harry impresses Dumbledore in the same way, when he does not keep the elder wand and gives it up in exchange for his own phoenix wand. Symbolically, this shows Harry’s disinterest in power, a trait that sets him apart. He has also overcome his hatred for Professor Snape (Harry in his anger often omitted the word Professor, only to be rebuked and reminded of the same by Dumbledore) and his new understanding leads him to name his son Albus Severus Potter. A part each from Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape.

JK Rowling is a master story teller who has a bit of everything for everyone. No wonder her enormous popularity and following. Ron, the mediocre good boy, who occasionally gets carried away, but is usually short on confidence, ultimately would go on to marry the beautiful and intelligent Hermione, who gets the top grades in school every time while Ron is struggling with his. I am sure this has won the hearts of many goody goody men who are not so fortunate in the real world. There aren’t many Hermione’s. That is why I called him the real lucky guy enjoying the faith and friendship of both Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. Rowling has taken care to reward handsomely the good natured Ron who is very ordinary but has a good heart. I envy Ron for sure. He gets the ultimate in both the friendship and love of Hermione. Not to forget Hermione’s forgiveness even after he deserts Harry and Hermione during a dangerously trying time. One can not simply ask for more than what Ron gets. Ron is not the only character with a good heart though. There are Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom as well who were always on Harry’s side.

In my opinion, though Hermione stands out as the writer’s favorite female character in the story, it is hard to guess who her favorite male character is.

Like there are few Hermione’s around, similarly, there are few headmasters and father figures like Dumbledore around in real life. It is a matter of luck to be associated with such people. Neither Harry nor the dreaded Voldemort would have learnt any skills had Dumbledore not discovered them. That is where one needs a huge slice of good fortune in life. To meet the right people at the right time. Raw talent is like an unpolished stone that has little value. It is the cutter who gives value to the diamond. Even the Ron’s and Neville’s become champions when they rub shoulders with the great.

This epic like work is likely to leave a permanent stamp on popular world literature meant for both children and adults. The play on words is a fabulous lesson in the English language. What wouldn’t I give to be re-born in an age when people would do literary research on Harry Potter as wonderful literature of the past! When kids would start reciting passages from the series of books for their elocution classes!

Rowling understands the psychology of men, women and children, their aspirations, dreams, failures, jealousies, trifles, fear, hatred, bullying, cruelty et ’al exceedingly well. Though a work of fantasy, the emotions of the characters are incredibly realistic. Also, as reported in several news articles, it is a personal triumph for Ms. Rowling, who fought her own mental dementors when earlier in life she suffered from acute depression and had to take medical help. It is as much her own story as it is of hundreds of others who have triumphed after a lot of suffering. The final message: Expecto patronum! You can only drive out sorrow with overflowing happiness. Cheers with a huge mug of butterbeer!

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