What a glorious, and I should say, unanticipated, return to form for Rowling with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! The palpable excitement in the theatre, and her recent social media announcement that four more films are in the offing brought back memories of a timeless morning: of Saturday, June 21, 2003, to be specific. It was a day thousands in the city, including yours truly, had counted down to for years. It was when we finally laid hands on the much-coveted Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, arguably the most important book in the Potter series, considering how it seamlessly picks up Harry, the boy, and turns him into Harry, the young adult — a transition many readers were themselves grappling with. Like with the launches of the other books, an interminable line of expectant readers thronged the bookstores from midnight. Dreaminess hung in the air like a tangible thing. The unanimous consensus then — with the luxury of knowing there were three more books to go — was, so long as there was a Potter book or a film to look forward to, no trouble was too big, no sadness too deep. Real troubles were the equivalent of Harry living in the cupboard under the stairs. It was temporary. A white owl would arrive, and victims would get whisked away to the magical world of Hogwarts.
Thursday, July 7, 2011, was important too, but for contrasting reasons. It was when the last film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, got released, and left millions grappling with Post-Potter Depression Syndrome (PPDS). For many years now, that dreaminess once felt has become an increasingly fading vestige. No fodder for the dreamers. The viral stories of the new decade are instead conspicuous by their pronounced emphasis on darkness. Breaking Bad. Peaky Blinders. And of course, the mother of them all: Game of Thrones.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was touted as the big return. Naturally, we reacted with the sort of wide-eyed craving you’d likely only see in rehabilitating addicts when tempted with their choicest poison. But it turned out that the play script was simply a weak, not altogether original, mishmash of plot elements from the seven books. It wasn’t going to satiate the ravenous appetite of starving Potter fans. If anything, the possibility of another engrossing story from the Potter universe became fainter. Perhaps, you wondered, she should just let it rest. And perhaps… you should too.
But with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the magic has been truly resuscitated again, like Voldemort after the brewing of the regeneration potion. Rowling has smartly dipped into the past, not the future as she did unsuccessfully in Cursed Child. With a further four films left, there’s a real chance that the Dumbledore-Grindelwald showdown could get an extended look. Dreamy waits punctuated with magical, excited conversations look again to be the order of the day.
A young Grindelwald with Dumbledore
At the theatre, I saw at least three groups of young adults dressed up in Potter costumes, prompting a nostalgic return to the good ol’ days. One girl, who I instantly recognised to be Professor Sybill Trelawney — thanks to her curly hair, the stars in her eyes, and the huge orb she was slugging around — walked up to me, eyes wide with theatricality, and told me she saw a job change in my near future. I smiled politely, hiding my astonishment at how she’d somehow, almost magically if you will, predicted right. While the Potter world has been revived — thank Merlin for that — this column comes to an end. As Jacob Kowalski, who essentially represents us in Fantastic Beasts, says at the end, “This is an adventure I’ll never forget.”
A version of this column was written for The Hindu. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share it.