It is a quiet 2008 winter afternoon, less than a month away from my class 10 examinations, and instead of diving into the perfectly planned revision study schedule, I was drowning myself into the magical world of the Harry Potter universe.
I remember sneaking in a copy of the massive "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”, hide it behind the NCERT books which frankly did not provide much of a cover, and simply get transported into another world.
The Harry Potter stories have been intertwined with my own life in a way that I can no longer remember a time without them. To this day, I continue to revisit the books and the films whenever I feel sad, happy, or lost.
So when “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts” that released on Amazon Prime in India on January 1 was announced, all there was to do was be overjoyed.
However, the weeks leading up to the release of the Harry Potter reunion was filled with scepticism. Particularly over two concerns, one because reunions of big franchises have historically been disappointing and two because it brought up the ‘do we separate the art from the artist’ debate in light of JK Rowling's transphobic tweets over the last few years.
Dismissing the second thoughts, I gave in, for it is difficult to not want to see Harry, Hermione and Ron share the screen together again, as is to not want to revisit one’s childhood, a happier, simpler time, especially in a world that has only grown darker in the last two years.
And, I am positive that Albus Dumbledore’s wise words, “Happiness can be found in even the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light,” have helped many Potter fans like myself to keep calm and sail through on several occasions.
Watching the reunion was akin to going through one’s childhood album, with your parents and grandparents narrating the behind the scenes that led to all those snap worthy moments. The film is just that and more because for those of us now in our late twenties and early thirties, we were pretty much going to school with Harry, Ron and Hermione, Neville, and Draco. They were and are our homies!
I remember fashioning a wand for myself from a tree branch, and collecting all kinds of posters that appeared in newspapers and magazines of anything remotely related to the Potter universe.
My tryst with the magical world of Hogwarts, however, began a couple of years later than most of my peers. I had stumbled upon the first film in between switching channels. There was no going back then, of course. I had watched Chamber of Secrets before I started with the books.
Funnily however, I had watched the films, all of them except the final instalment of Deathly Hallows, in Hindi. I used to wait for the films to premiere on the cartoon channel Pogo and Hindi Pogo was all we would get back then. So, I knew"Tootam Jodum" and "Pitridev Sangrakshanam" before I got fluent in "Occulus Reparo" and "Expecto Patronum".
My Harry Potter diary had all the spells chalked out in Hindi, penned down in cursive writing in double glitter ink.
There was this one time when a class at my coaching centre ran later than expected, and I was desperate to reach home because “Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix” was to premiere on TV. I had never wanted 'Accio Firebolt' to work for real more.
In the reunion, Emma Watson says, “there’s something about Harry Potter that makes life richer”, and very few would argue.
But as desperately as I sought the thrill of a new book or a new film in this magical universe as a child, I have revisited the films and books a lot more as an adult, and am a proud owner of several Harry Potter collectibles including a golden snitch, a Gryffindor jumper, a music box that plays the theme music, a horcrux charms bracelet, a copy of the Marauder’s Map, a ticket on the Hogwarts express, and more.
When you revisit the books and films as an adult, the thrill and suspense of a new twist in the story are of course gone. Now they offer comfort in their familiarity. In these uncertain times, when for months we couldn’t see our loved ones, a sense of familiarity offered some relief. It really did.
Knowing what would happen, knowing what Dumbledore or Snape or Hagrid would magically solve a problem, knowing that despite losing Sirius, and Remus and Fred, it would somehow be okay in the end was something.
Harry Potter was one of those very few things that made me truly believe that kindness and good will always prevail…that it is important to hold on to that kindness and good in the harshest of times.
So, when I decided to watch the reunion, all I brought with myself were the happy memories, and left all the inhibitions behind. We don’t need any more anticipation in our lives than we already have these days. The film could perhaps be criticised on technicalities of cinematography but that wasn’t what I watched it for in the first place. I watched it for the comfort and there was a whole lot of it. It was like visiting and reconnecting with an old friend. Watching the actors and directors talk about the series like they were a family having a casual round-the-coffee-table chat was reaffirming. I felt a warmth spread across my heart as I saw Emma, Rupert and Daniel hold hands just like all those years ago in the Gryffindor common room and in the Burrow.
The fact that Rowling wasn’t part of it (only pre-recorded footage from 2019 was used) was of course an additional bonus.
Radcliffe following Rowling’s transphobic tweets had, a few years back, while defending the trans peoples’ rights urged Potterheads across the world to not let the author’s statements taint their relationship with the stories.
“…if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred.” he had said.
While concerns over Rowling being insensitive are extremely real, the stories are in fact about misfits finding a world they feel like they belong to, and that is what, at least that’s the hope, that generations of children to come that read Harry Potter will take to.
As Robbie Coltrane says, “The legacy of these movies is that my children’s generation will show them to their children so you could be watching these in 50 years' time easily, I will not be here sadly, but Hagrid will.”