Sunday, August 7, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child || A Shot of Gillyweed for those Drowning in the Muggle World

When I heard there's a new Harry Potter book out, I couldn't believe it. JK Rowling had made it pretty clear that there won't be another book ever. But who's complaining? There can never be enough Harry Potter books. So what if Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a script instead of a novel? So what if all the characters are two decades older? So what if many of our beloved characters don't get to play a part in it? It is still Harry Potter, and it is still magical.  

 
The story starts almost two decades after the great battle at Hogwarts and follows the escapades of Harry and Ginny's younger son Albus Severus Potter and Draco's son Scorpius Malfoy. Bogged down by the weight of carrying two huge names and of being Harry Potter's son, Albus reluctantly boards the Hogwarts Express. On the train he runs into Scorpius and the two boys instantly hit it off in ways that their fathers couldn't through the seven books. At Hogwarts, however, Albus's worst fears are realized when he is sorted into Slytherin instead of Gryffindor. In a bid to right some wrongs and also to prove himself worthy of being Harry Potter's son, Albus embarks on an adventure, accompanied by Scorpius, armed with a stolen time turner. The two boys are on a mission to save Cedric Diggory from being killed by Voldemort. What follows is a roller-coaster ride through some of the most evocative settings of Potter books and through time itself.
  
Starting with what I loved about the book. The characters retained their layers that were brought out beautifully through their interactions. With much less scope for exposition, it is harder to establish the back-story and the flaws in a play, but the scriptwriters did this beautifully. This is the main reason why I forgive the fact that the stories of many of our beloved characters weren't carried forward in this play. It isn't possible to do justice to characters in a play if there are too many of them.

The story had a moral and though at points there was a hint of didacticism, it still managed to move the reader and hit home. There were moments of profound wisdom. Consider this for example:



*****
Harry: Those names you have -- they shouldn't be a burden. Albus Dumbledore had his trials too you know - and Severus Snape, well, you know all about him --

Albus: They were good men.

Harry: They were great men, with huge flaws, and you know what - those flaws almost made them greater.
*****
 

The friendship between Albus Severus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy is warm and relatable. Both the boys are lonely and feel like misfits - one from being overshadowed by a father who was a hero and another from being related to a family of Deatheaters. It is no surprise then that they find comfort in each other's company. Much like the friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the boys, too, bring out the best in each other, help each other deal with their inner darkness, and support each other through their moments of weakness.

The story is a complex one, not just because of the layers in characterization and the subplots, but because the story deals with time travel and alternate realities. Within the confines of a play, it is commendable that the writers were able to do a convincing job of it without once dropping the ball.

However, there were some significant misses too, such as the vomit-inducing friendship between Harry and Draco. We could have done with a little more bitterness, some snide remarks, and some left-over hostility there. Instead, it turned all sugary-sweet where a wiser-beyond-belief Draco turns a philosopher and frequently lectures Harry. Snape's character too, in one of the alternate realities, is friends with Hermione and it just doesn't work for the readers. Neither friendships sound convincing.

Though the writers did a great job with most of the characters, their portrayal of Ron is one-dimensional. Though Ron stays goofy and funny, he is but a caricature of himself. He is almost the clown of the story, whose only purpose is to provide comic relief. This really isn't fair to a character that developed so much in the seven Harry Potter books.

So do I recommend the book? Not particularly strongly, especially if you like to wield your wand and cast a curse at the slightest provocation. In that case, you will find it difficult to forgive the scriptwriters for the misses and also me for recommending this book. But if you are drowning in the muggle world and are grasping for a life-saving supply of gillyweed, you can read it once. Is it as good as the seven books? Not even close, so don't go in expecting too much. Is it terrible? Not at all. It is different, and that it was bound to be.
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