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"Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone"

GOOD READING sometimes may not always make good viewing just as the reverse holds good — making films out of popular books is a hard task itself considering that imagination is a wide canvas. But if one goes by the axiom that all work, creative work that is, is subjective then comparing the book to the film version is itself a futile exercise - in this case the hugely popular Harry Potter series that are being made into films. The much awaited one - Warner Bros' ``Harry Potter And The Sorcerers Stone" that originally came from the mind of a single mother weaving a mystical, magical world through a 11-year old, has made the transition to celluloid with zestful entertainment.


Daniel Radcliff as Harry Potter... utterly charming and vulnerable.

Chris Columbus's work is notable in its utter adherence to the written word. It is shrewdly respectful of the book, clearly reluctant to alienate any part of the strong reading fan base, a few omissions and sketchy details notwithstanding. But then the masterfully made film offers no surprises, to those who have read the book. As far as Harry knows, his parents were killed in a car crash when he was an infant and he is left with muggles (non-wizards) - his uncle and aunt. He is the poor relative relegated to the closet (now that would have some connotations). He has to wait on them, a la Cinderella, and on their obnoxious pudgy son Dudley who gets all the attention and the presents. But comes Harry's 11th birthday and everything changes. A gentle giant Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) literally crashes into their lives to inform Harry that he is a wizard by birth and that he has been invited to study at the Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry for gifted young witches and wizards - a boarding filled with semi-giants, three headed dogs, owls, jelly beans of every imaginable flavour, and of course sinister forces. At Hogwarts, Harry is tutored in the art of potions, spells and riding a broomstick. He is watched by head master Dumbledore (Richard Harris) a wise, silver bearded man and the slightly peppery disciplinarian Prof. McGonagall (Maggie Smith), the transfiguration teacher; the dank Snape (Alan Rickman) professor of potions, the quavering Quirrell (Ian Hart) and pals, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson).

Harry also finds at Hogwarts much of what his pitiful life has lacked - close friends and the truth about his parents - magical skills unknown to him and recognition of his own worth! He also gets to be on the Quidditch team (a kind of airborne soccer) an honour that rarely comes to first years. But then he also gets many things he didn't bargain for. The special effects including the background score in the film, are staggering. John Seale's cinematography and Stuart Craig's design come together most effectively and the shots of Hogwarts central hallway with its moving staircases and animated portraits are marvelous. And the Quidditch scene where a strange game is played on broomsticks is truly gripping - it is fantasy at its height. And the choosing of the houses? When Harry is being assigned to one of Hogwarts four houses the `sorting hat' assesses his character and then applauds him for ``having courage, talent, not a bad mind and a thirst to prove'' and puts him into the house of Gryffindor much to Harry's relief - a scene kids will enjoy watching.

There are many positive elements in the midst of some questions about the very existence of witchery and wizardry. For instance, the evil acts of darkside wizards - such as the killing of a unicorn for its life giving blood- are denounced. Lines spoken by the bad guys expose the evil side and are swiftly refuted. On the negative side are the villains themselves with their spells in the form of curses and death, and the reiteration of witchery and wizardry in this day and age when rational thought and development should be the creed. And the fact that the emotional impact made by a film is more than what a book does. In fact the footage of Harry's battle scene is shorter in the film than in the book, but is far more exciting because of its visual power. It can be frightening especially for kids less than 10. And what about the fact that Harry and his friends sometimes break rules with impunity though played down in the film? But shorn of all the questions and taken at the surface level the film is truly worth seeing. The quality of work that has gone into finding the right faces for the characters and their costumes is something outstanding. It's probably as close to what the author J. K. Rowling imagined while she wrote the book. Daniel Radcliff who plays Harry is utterly charming. frank and vulnerable, he tugs at your heartstrings especially in the scene where he looks into the mirror of the future and sees himself with his parents. Emma Watson as Hermoine is self-possessed, slightly imperious and loyal — played beautifully, and Rupert Grint plays Ron to perfection.

CHITRA MAHESH

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