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Harry Potter, you've come a long way!

Thirteen years ago, on November 16, British author JK Rowling’s star creation, the bespectacled boy wizard Harry Potter made his big-screen debut in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. We look at the book versus film debate on one of the world’s most successful literary series

Three years ago, a friend popped by to borrow, I can’t recall exactly what, but let’s assume it was sugar.

A cameraman
A cameraman films a display of wand boxes during a preview of the Warner Bros Harry Potter studio tour 'The Making of Harry Potter' in north London on March 26, 2012. The Making of Harry Potter, which opened on Marchi 31, 2012 relives the boy wizard’s adventures from book to film. Pic/AFP

She opened the unlocked door and was aghast to see me sitting on my couch and bawling away. Since we were studying in far, far off Costa Rica, she was concerned that something had happened back home.

Emma Watson, JK Rowling, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe
(L-R) Emma Watson, JK Rowling, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe arrive at the premiere of Prisoner of Azkaban at Leicester Square, London.

The said friend enveloped me in a comforting hug and asked haltingly what had happened. “Dobby died!” I wailed, clutching her hand. Puzzled friend responded, “Dobby who?” I pointed at the TV screen where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 was being broadcast and Dobby the free elf had bravely rescued Potter and his friends and succumbed to a
knife injury.

A view of the costumes of the professors at Hogwarts School of Witchraft and Wizardry at Universal Orlando in Florida
A view of the costumes of the professors at Hogwarts School of Witchraft and Wizardry at Universal Orlando in Florida. Pics/AFP

Friend, of course, thinks I am nuts, but that’s muggles (non-wizarding people) for you. For Potter heads, the Harry Potter films may be far from perfect renditions of our beloved books, but they are now a wonderful way to revisit our favourite stories. It was thirteen years ago that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hit the silver screen and although the eight-film series got 12 Academy Award nominations, it didn’t end up winning any of the Oscars.

Britain's Catherine
Britain’s Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, looks at the costume for the character Hagrid on display on the set used to depict Hogwarts’ Great Hall in the Harry Potter films during the inauguration of Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden, north London.

But do Potter heads care? No. Are all the films flawless? No. Could we have expected more faithful toeing the book line? Yes. But do we complain now? No.

English doubledecker bus
Commuters ride in a traditional English doubledecker bus adorned with an ad for the  fifth Harry Potter book, the Order of the Phoenix, in central London on June 19, 2003.

That’s because for Potter fans, the films are a portkey that transport us back into the magical world that JK Rowling created, where we can leave behind our muggle one. There’s something comforting yet thrilling about the films — the certainty that Neville Longbottom (played by Matthew Lewis) will grow up to be the more good looking of that particular Hogwarts batch, that we will nod sagely when Dumbledore says “It does not do to dwell on dreams, and forget to live” in The Philosopher’s Stone.

Hogwarts Express
A view of the Hogwarts Express at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley grand opening at Universal Orlando on June 18, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.

Also, that we still feel that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince could have ended with a better face-off between Snape and Potter (while shaking our head exasperatedly, because seriously what on earth was Ginny doing tying up Harry’s shoe laces in that movie).

11-year-old Daniel Radcliffe with director of the first Harry Potter film, Chris Columbus
11-year-old Daniel Radcliffe with director of the first Harry Potter film, Chris Columbus

We know what will happen next in the movies, we can rattle off the dialogues, and yet, we will watch them, again and again.

Odeon cinema
People queue up outside the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square for the first public showing of the Harry Potter movie in London’s west end, November 16, 2001. British cinemas reported the highest pre-bookings ever for the movie based on JK Rowling’s books.

Bijal Vachharajani is a self-confessed Potter head who spends her salary from Fairtrade India on collectibles, of which she has a sizeable collection now.

Rubber masks of goblins at Gringotts Wizarding Bank on display at a studio tour, The Making of Harry Potter in north London.
Rubber masks of goblins at Gringotts Wizarding Bank on display at a studio tour, The Making of Harry Potter in north London.

She won’t say no to a Sorting Hat, though.

Did you know?

The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, debuted in Great Britain in 1997 and was released in the United States the following year under the name Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

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