The first few Harry Potter books left me speechless. Here at last, was a book for children that had amalgamated almost everything great in the western world that had been written for that demographic.
It took Tolkien's clever, shrouded battle between good and evil in Lord of the Rings series, the twisted English public school world of the Tom Sharpe novels, the comforting chumminess of a group of any Enid Blyton characters. And magic. Lots of it. Most of it, (all of it?), it derived from fiction over the ages. But who cared?
Here were books that did what all great popular art does - took a time-honoured formula and gave it a hip, contemporary twist. It mixed eastern philosophy with western theology. Was as funny as it was sanctimonious. And had a cast of unforgettable characters.
It didn't need a new-age guru to see these books were going to catch the imagination of the entire tween-and-under world. What no one saw coming was how incredibly popular these books would be with two other markets - women between 16 to 35 years and parents of trillions of pre-pubescent muggles across the planet.
Once these became the highest selling paper goods after money, newspaper and toilet paper (well, they might well be), it was a matter of time before the movie industry presented itself, buffed and botoxed, to her majesty Ms Rowling.
The rest, as I have never heard it being said, is history. Warner Brothers has earned 1.75 billion pounds at the box office, (and at last count, owns two small planets), Daniel Radcliffe, 14 million, Emma Watson, five, Rupert Grint, one.. the list goes on. So where does that leave us ordinary folk with a few thousands in our pockets that will fly towards the cashier at the next Potterfest?
To be honest, we're better off with the series in this world than without. There are more destructive opiates than these books (George Bush), more incredibly stupid productions (War of the Worlds, Attack of the Clones) than these movies, and more vacuous merchandise (Ken dolls) than the Potter arsenal.
Besides, all of them have bits that have been great entertainment. Hagrid, the Sorting Hat, Severus Snape (my favourite), the Marauder's Map. Even one of the movies, directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien), was bearable. Bookworms But without doubt our greatest debt to the series must be for what it has done to our children, at least the ones who can afford it. It has brought millions of them back to books. It has pushed hundreds of thousands of them to imagine new worlds without any help from XBox.
It has taught an entire generation of rich kids that the battle of good versus evil is a ceaseless one with constant effort being the only way to ensure that good keeps its nose ahead.
How much of that they retain in the 2020s is open to debate, but for a series that never set out to be anything more than an irresistible read for children, it's a truly fantastic achievement.
Will I read the seventh one when it hits the shelves next week? You bet. Will I watch the fifth movie with a bag of popcorn in each hand? You bet.
'My son will look like Potter'
I 'm an avid reader, I've to be paid to stop reading. In school, I had this crazy idea of reading the Britannica Encylopedia from A to Z. I realised one can't do that in a single lifetime.
I was into Enid Blyton, the Noddy series, the Secret 7, Biggles, Billy Bunter and Nancy Drew. My grandma would take me to a bookstore near Kala Ghoda, it has closed down now. By the way, my grandma has over 10,000 books, everything from Karl Marx to Thomas Hardy.
I've always been into one genre at a time. I've gone through phases..like there was a time I wouldn't stop reading PG Wodehouse till I had read every word he had written.. and I was so full of it that I had to turn to Agatha Christie. Surprisingly, I never went through a Mills and Boon phase.. Barbara Steele was as far as I could go in terms of mushy romances.
My favourites are Indian authors who write in English, especially RK Narayan.. the flow and the wit of his language are something else.
I've been through the phase of devouring self-help books, then the deeply philosophical ones by Kahlil Gibran and Paulo Coelho. Then I'd read nothing but books about women suppression, like the ones by Tehmina Durrani.
<b3>In the film industry, I've heard that Kajol is crazy about reading. I read everywhere - on airflights, beauty parlours, in between shots, everywhere. I was so captivated by the Da Vinci Code that I finished it cover-to-cover on a flight from Canada to Bombay. Right now, I'm reading the New York Times essays on writers on writing.. and a book by Martin Scorsese.
Ah, now the Potter books. I've read a couple of them..and have seen a couple of the films. Frankly I'm just not into Potter majorly…but then I'm not into the genre of hyper-fantasies fiction, be it Lord of the Rings or the Spiderman.
I will read the new Potter book and see the movie, out of sheer curiosity but you won't find me queuing up at the store or running to the multiplex.
Yet, of course JK Rowling is a super success story. Imagine a housewife has gripped the mind of the children of the world. A kid needs to be intelligent to grasp the story of Potter.. the author has respected every kid's innate intelligence. Children can identify with the classroom banter, the magic, the intrigue, the floppy hair and the cute round glasses.
My friends tell me if I ever have a son, he'll look like Harry Potter. And that won't be a bad thing because Potter is intelligent and famous.
It would be a dream come true to write a book some day. It would be interesting to attempt a book many years from now. It would be a bit sizzling and a bit boring..but I know it's title for sure - Sex and the Film City!
Author: Ameesha Patel