OPINION: Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts reunion is a magical journey riddled with reminders of real world
While the Harry Potter reunion makes us nostalgic and emotional, it also reminds us how the world outside it isn't all that magical after all.
Among the several valuable qualities that fictional literature possess, my favourite one is the idea that there's a limitless space to explore. The audacity of vision that it provides is incomparable and to truly run wild with it, you could build new universes, life forms, change planets, create solar systems and basically just give birth to art that is novel to a point that you crave for it to be real. Among the several genres under fiction, fantasy is a rather tricky one. In the case of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, seven books explore magical beings dealing with the purest of human emotions. While reading the books for the first time, I remember painting up in my head, the world of witchcraft and wizardry in a way I thought was impossible to go any further close to, until the Harry Potter films came into being.
Much like the powerful medium that words pose for fictional prose, the idea of capturing it for the film is an even stronger one. Almost nothing on the screen feels real enough yet you badly want your life filled with moments cinematic enough. Thus, this combination of powerful prose along with clever storytellers presented us with the opportunity of experiencing the Harry Potter films on screen. Through 8 films, many of us laughed, cried and cheered on as Harry and his friends braved a journey that seems toughest for any high-school kid. Something about Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and nearly every actor cast for their roles seemed fit. It's unbelievable to think that 20 years have past and even today every Christmas, I find myself drawn to these films and still feel their warmth embracing me like a blanket in winter.
Although even as the first film from the franchise completes 20 years since its release and its appeal remains pretty much the same, there are several other things outside of this magical movie that have changed. As the cast of Harry Potter comes together again for a reunion special, I can't help but feel nostalgic and at the same time a tad guilty about the attachment I pose to the work of J.K. Rowling. As much as I grew up idolizing her work, Rowling' recent transphobic comments have been extremely concerning and it immediately serves the art vs artist dilemma to me. It's excessively while watching this reunion special that I dug deeper into the idea of what it means to separate the art from the artist. While Rowling's controversial statements may have tainted the idea of her for me, her work which is adapted so brilliantly by directors such as Chris Columbus, David Yates, Mike Newell, Alfonso Cuaron does not deserve to be cancelled. Each of these directors envisioned the Potter universe in ways that are now etched into our minds and they deserve credit for that. So do the actors who made us believe with every flick of that wand that magic does exist.
As a celebration of a milestone piece of work that is ingrained in pop culture history, the reunion special according to me made for a perfect watch to celebrate the contributions of everyone from the set department to costumes and makeup, who brought us one step closer into magical Potter world with their hard work. The reunion worked for me because it took us behind the scenes, showcasing how every relationship offscreen mattered for how things translated onscreen. The conversations between Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe also threw light on challenges faced by child actors and how their early on-set experiences shaped their careers. I was particularly delighted to hear how a young Daniel Radcliffe warned everyone to be at their best behavior as Gary Oldman came on board to play Sirius Black. As someone who looked up to Oldman, Radcliffe wanted to make sure he made the most of it and it's heartwarming to see that similar glint in his eyes every time Harry looks at his Godfather in the films.
On a set full of child actors, a director is no less than a parent or a school teacher and watching each filmmaker explain how they managed to keep the environment on set fun was also something that we needed to know to truly understand what it takes to capture such an emotional journey for the screen.
Unfortunately, though, life isn't magical offscreen and hence the harsh reminders of it come through when we lose the people we love and in terms of the Harry Potter universe, the passing of actors such as Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Helen McCrory will always leave us emotional. It's the bits of reality like this one of not having the chance to see these actors relive their experience that seems unfair. It's also the discussion of elements that need to be addressed 20 years on that hurts a little. I wish they had given a chance to Katie Leung who played Cho Chang to talk about the racist abuse she faced as a teenager after the films came out.
The Return to Hogwarts reunion, mainly remains enjoyable and magical till the time you're inside Hogwarts which still seems like a safe place to keep away all the outside noise. The Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling gets included in the reunion via archival footage and makes no physical presence. She is also not a part of any interaction between the cast members and that is a constant reminder of the reality amid the magical world.