It is half-past twelve on a Sunday afternoon when I instinctively grab the remote to tune into POGO TV. With packets of Lay’s (yellow, green, and blue, always in that order!) for company, I immerse myself in the inimitable universe of Harry Potter, where sonorous spells, translucent ceilings, kind-hearted monsters, and forever friendships co-exist in perfect harmony.
For the next three hours, I am firmly in my comfort zone. A proper lunch and homework can wait. So can the rest of my world.
Growing up as a member of the so-called Generation Z, this used to be my routine for more Sundays than I can count, for nothing was more inseparably interlinked with my adolescence than Harry Potter.
This November 16 marks two decades of the HP franchise setting the gold-standard for fantasy movies. In 2001, when Warner Bros. gambled on three cherubic kids in Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint to lead the cinematic translation of J.K. Rowling’s superhit novels, nobody could have imagined what Harry Potter would eventually become.
Twenty years later, “the boy who lived” has continued to live on, not just as a pop culture phenomenon but as a source of emotional sustenance and blissful nostalgia.
Maturing through magic
As a kid, words like “courage”, “selflessness”, and “hope” always seemed a tad hollow to me, as if they were screaming for attention from the pages of my value education texts. It was Harry Potter that made me realise their true meaning.
Witnessing Harry, Hermione, and Ron wade their way through challenge after challenge in a bid to protect the Sorcerer’s Stone from malicious hands, I understood that courage did not mean the absence of fear, it meant persevering while staring fear in the face.
The way Severus Snape secretly pined and mourned for Lily Potter, and vowed to protect her son Harry, epitomised selflessness for me, the kind of commitment that makes lesser souls ask, “After all this time?” only to receive an understated reply of “Always”.
After every nasty episode that Harry and friends would find themselves in, the beaming smile of Hagrid became my symbol of hope, a recurring reassurance that light eventually comes in through the cracks.
Apart from grounding and characterising the aforementioned qualities, the Harry Potter films also gave me crucial early lessons about society.
The contempt of the “pure-bloods” towards the “Muggles” made me notice parallels with real-life racism and unsettling notions of ethnic superiority. The tabloid tantrums of Rita Skeeter and The Daily Prophet introduced me to propaganda and how it can subvert honest journalism. Most compelling of all, the authoritarian figure of Dolores Umbridge allowed me to appreciate the importance of safeguarding collective freedom at all costs.
Beyond black and white
To many the foremost appeal of the Harry Potter narrative remains the triumph of good over evil. While I submit to the fact that puberty did not make Harry an ambivalent protagonist like Breaking Bad’s Walter White and that the thematic nuances in Harry Potter are not as sharp as those in, say, Game of Thrones, I refuse to admit that the HP world is constrained by the traditional binary of good and evil, black and white.
This became clearer to me when I started revisiting the films in my late teens. Gradually, I could begin to explain Voldemort’s actions (though never justify them). I could see Albus Dumbledore not as a magnanimous super-wizard, but as a deeply conflicted man who could be simultaneously selfish and sincere. I could finally look at the relationship between Harry and Hermione for what it is — a bond between soulmates who need to be more than friends as much as they need to not be lovers.
The muggle behind the magic: J.K. RowlingTT archives
That, for me, is the beauty of Harry Potter — a series of films that evolves with the viewer; that, like a good Robert Frost poem or a Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, means different things when you are eight, 16, and 23.
Even though the cinematic journey of Harry Potter culminated with The Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 2011, its beauty has found, and always will find, newer outlets, be it through a more inclusive play, an endless digital reservoir, splendid fan-fiction, or even a reunion of the original cast!
After all, if there is something that growing up with Harry Potter has convinced me of, it is how the best sort of magic is the one that transcends time.
Counting down the most memorable Harry Potter moments on screen is both impractical and impossible. Instead, here is a list of five underrated moments that have a special place in my HP fandom:
Dumbledore eats ear wax: ‘The Sorcerer’s Stone’
Once its adrenaline-pumping climax has finished, The Sorcerer’s Stone provides a heart-warming exchange between Professor Dumbledore and Harry. The two talk about the vaunted stone that Harry managed to “find” without ever seeking to “use”, before Dumbledore’s toffee quest ends in that ear wax-flavoured bean!
Snape snaps at Hermione: ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’
While teaching his class about werewolves, Snape asks a question to which only Hermione (obviously!) has the answer. After Hermione overexplains (duly acknowledged by Draco Malfoy’s mock-howling), Snape lashes out at her for being “an insufferable know-it-all”. The ironic reprimand is classic Snape, never out of fashion.
Light and darkness: ‘The Order of the Phoenix’
“You’re not a bad person. You’re a good person whom bad things have happened to,” explains Sirius Black to an emotionally tormented Harry. The conversation segues into one of the simplest yet most profound dialogues in all of Harry Potter, with Black outlining how “we’ve all got light and darkness inside of us.”
Luna’s rescue act: ‘The Half-Blood Prince’
After an altercation with Malfoy leaves him out cold (not to mention invisible) inside a train, Harry seems destined to be anywhere but at Hogwarts. That is until a wandering Luna Lovegood shows up, spots Harry through her all-revealing glasses, and rescues him, in a scene laced with suspense and humour.
Neville destroys The Death Eaters: ‘The Deathly Hallows’ Part 2
Thanks to Neville’s iconic slaying of Nagini later, this scene has never quite got its due. But the sheer thrill of countless Death Eaters chasing Neville Longbottom only for the latter to sink them in style deserves a fan club of its own!