Harry Potter turns 20
Twenty years have passed since a bespectacled boy with a scar on his forehead visited our lives on the big screen for the first time with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Twenty years have passed since a bespectacled boy with a scar on his forehead visited our lives on the big screen for the first time with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
How quickly does time fly? We ask ourselves that question repeatedly while watching Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, a lavishly mounted retrospective special streaming on Prime Video. Individuals, most of them household names, share their experiences of working in the grand cinematic adventure.
The list of participants includes veterans Gary Oldman (Sirius Black) and Robbie Coltraine (Rubeus Hagrid) as also the younger lot led by Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and, of course, Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry.
The retrospective special takes us back to the first day at work for the trio of Radcliffe, Watson and Grint when the pop-cultural phenomenon was taking its first baby steps. Children at that time, none of them knew anything about the accomplished actors with whom they were sharing screen space.
Working in the wildly successful Potter films would give them their identity, bring them unimaginable fame, and prove to be their acting school as well. They journeyed from childhood to adulthood in each other’s company, becoming close pals during the eventful journey.
This writer was in his early 30s when Harry Potter had hit the big screen for the first time. Before that happened, one had been persuaded to read Harry Potter by a friend’s child. After one did, it was easy to understand why people the world over – and not just children – had fallen in love with the vividly portrayed world of magicians, good and bad.
One realised that author J K Rowling was capable of crafting an endless series of gripping subplots as her characters journeyed through their lives in an alternate universe that had wands, Quidditch, magical spells, Voldemort and much more. The impact, in short, was magical.
The film under review has its share of funny moments. We get to know that Richard Harris, who played the Hogwarts principal Albus Dumbledore in the first two films, had mistaken the animatronic bird Phoenix for a real one. Helena Bonham Carter, who played the Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange, takes out her carefully preserved false teeth that she would wear when she played the character.
The primary cast of kids grew up while working in Harry films. When Grint says that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was ‘like a whole era’ in which he and his friends are shown as teenagers, he could have been talking about his growth in real life. When Watson talks about ‘the duckling becomes a swan moment’ when her character wears a pink dress for the ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, she, having started as a child, had similarly grown into an adult.
Investing a significant part of their lives in Potter films must have made leaving its sets for the last time an emotionally overpowering experience. We see Coltraine in his familiar Hagrid look bow in acknowledgement as a voice in the background tells everybody present that it is his ‘last day on Harry Potter.’ It is easy to imagine the feeling of saying that final goodbye.
Many individuals associated with these films, including Harris and Alan Rickman who played Severus Snape, are no more. The passing of those who played an important role in giving rise to Potter films is duly mentioned and saddening.
One need not be a Potterhead to relish Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts. Anybody who has watched and liked these films will enjoy it - as long as one hasn’t become a battle-weary bore with time.