'How did Hermoine fall for Weasley?'
20 years after Harry Potter made his debut, Vanita Kohli-Khandekar has some questions for its author.
Circa 2007: It is a chilly winter morning on July 21 in Knysna, a small town on the Garden coast in South Africa. I quickly get into the queue at the local book shop.
We are on a driving holiday across the southern coast of a country that has its winter from June to August. There is no need for me to get up early.
But the last and seventh book in J K Rowling's Harry Potter series is about to release and I simply have to have a copy.
My big worry -- will all the copies be in Afrikaans or will I get an English one?
I do and I clutch it all the way back to the hotel before "going missing" as the husband puts it.
I don't talk or go out till I finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Only when Voldermort is killed and Harry throws the elder wand do I emerge from Hogwarts to rediscover South Africa.
Ten years later, 2017: It is the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, a character Rowling created in 1997.
The bespectacled wizard has so far conjured up a empire of around $25 billion with books, themes parks, toys and films.
That number, however, doesn't capture the sheer joy that Potter's world and his story have brought to billions of fans.
As a die-hard Potterite, there are five questions that have always bothered me. They may seem like quibbles, but they really are the observations of an affectionate fan who has read and re-read the seven books, watched and re-watched the eight films and read several megabytes of trivia online. And, read almost all of Rowling's work since.
Why the elaborate charade of the Tri-Wizard tournament? Why make a portkey out of the winning cup, manipulating things so that Potter touches the cup and gets transported to Voldermort?
Why couldn't Barty Crouch Junior, who pretends to be Alastair Moody, just apparate with Harry Potter to wherever Voldermort was?
That is the thing that struck me after I finished reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (book four).
Why were the last four of the eight films so dark?
The first four films were more or less true to the books and their storylines. They brought out the charm and wonder of an orphaned Potter discovering at 11 that he is a wizard; that he has to go to Hogwarts, a school for witches and wizards.
Chris Columbus of Home Alone fame directed the first two with a light touch. For me the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (directed by Alfonso Cuaron who later made Gravity) is by far the best in the series.
It translates a complicated tale full of new characters to film without losing much of the book.
But starting with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (book five), the films have been way too dark -- in look, feel and storytelling.
You could argue that this is because the series became darker from book four onwards. The dark lord, Voldermort, came back to mortally threaten the happy world of witches and wizards.
In book five he is gathering followers and in book six he gets Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts and Potter's protector, killed.
Book seven, which I picked up in Knysna, begins with Potter's quest for the seven horcruxes that contain pieces of Voldermort's soul.
If he can destroy those, he can destroy Voldermort and all that threatens the wizarding world. (Book seven was made into two films, therefore there are eight Potter films.)
It is a tough job converting a successful book series into films and fans are never happy with whatever you do.
David Yates, who handled the last four films, did a competent job given the amount of material he had to cover -- so many characters, sub plots and what not. But he tried too hard to make what was already a fascinating story into high art with too much realism.
The films have a depressing, pessimistic, 'arty' touch; a bit like the efforts at humanising Sherlock or Spiderman or Batman.
That the Potter series is a case of brilliant casting is now well accepted. One reason perhaps is Rowling's reported insistence that it should have English actors.
Emma Watson is Hermione Granger, Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter and Rupert Grint is Ronald Weasley.
All the others (except perhaps Harry's mum who changes in the last film) are well cast. Alan Rickman as Severus Snape and Mathew Lewis as Neville Longbottom are particularly outstanding. The latter's journey from a plump loser to the man who ignites a rebellion against the death eaters at Hogwarts in the last film is well done.
One of my own favourites was David Thewlis who plays Remus Lupin, Potter's Defence against the Dark Arts teacher in book three and dies towards the end of the series.
Thewlis captures well the tattered nobility of the character who cannot help turning into a werewolf.
Everytime I watch the series, I wonder how on earth did the producers manage to consistently hang on to the cast for over a decade.
They all grew older, smarter, and different and yet they all remain in character.
This is something that hits me about The Lord of the Rings too, incidentally a better directed series than Harry Potter.
But The Lord of the Rings has only three (albeit long) films and many characters die in the first and second one.
In one interview, Rowling said that Rickman, or Snape, was the only actor who knew what his character was till the end of the story.
So, from a horrible guy who seems determined to kill Potter, it emerges that the Slytherin house master is actually Potter's secret protector and Dumbledore's closest confidante.
Much of this is revealed only in the last book. But, and this is the fourth question, was that the case?
There is just one hint, that too in book six, that Snape is not really that nasty.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Snape has a clear chance to kill Potter, but doesn't.
I wondered about that. But had Rowling really made up her mind on whether Snape is good or bad then or earlier?
And my last question: What happened to the Hermione and Viktor Krum romance?
How did she fall for Weasley after her little crush on Krum?
The 'opposites attract' angle -- he is such a duh and she is so brilliant -- seems a little too pat. But now I am quibbling.