Friday, July 27, 2007


I am an unabashed fan of Harry Potter. Not so much of a fan (my priorities have, er... changed now) to leave aside all other things and keep reading till I finish the book, but enough of a fan to prebook, buy and read as soon as possible. The narration is tight, the stories riveting and the characters are immensely loveable.

Today I had lunch at a relative’s. A few of us were discussing excitedly about ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’. (No, I still have not finished it. I have been terribly busy these couple of weeks and let R read it first.) An Uncle, G, heard our conversation and said “You would not read with so much interest if ‘baalanaagamma’ or ‘paataalabhairavi’ were released, you want only a western Harry Potter”. A couple of other elders joined in. The youngsters’ voice of protest was drowned in the elders' complaints about how today's kids loved "foreign" books and foreign everything. All this stemming from an innocent discussion about Harry Potter.

Let me make one thing clear first. I am all for preservation of Indian culture. Nobody who knows me can say that I do not read Indian books. I am pretty well-informed about our puranic and vedic lore. And it really irritates me when some people, writers included, rant that the HP series is not good, just hyped by the media. G was of the opinion that the sole reason for the popularity of HP was because of the publicity by the media. I think that the media-hype will work for the first volume and probably even the second. Beyond that, it is solely the writer's capability and the books' quality that makes the book popular or not popular.

I think I have complained elsewhere in my blog, that kids hardly read these days. They are so full of video games and the TV, that reading books other than their textbooks is somewhere at the end of their list of love-to-do things. This is if reading does find a place at all, in such a list. In this scenario, the one series that has taken many kids and adults back to reading is the Harry Potter series. They have made reading 'cool'. The books, even if they can be read very easily, are well-thought out. And since they are pretty voluminous, I think they tend to make other big books less intimidating, in the long run.

True, we have other, better books even in India. But let us not grudge Rowling her well-deserved popularity. She has given us a wonderful series of books; let's enjoy them!


GVK said...

As an oldie (68), and utterly unfamiliar with Potter, I admit I've problem comprehending the mania. But then one can't wish away the Potter impact, worldwide. Haven't read or heard from any young blogger who isn't sold on Harry Potter. It's a phenomenon worthy of a sociologist's attention.
Incidentally, you might want to look up blogger Lakshmi on Pottermania.

parijata said...

Welcome to my blog.
My Father-in-law does not find Harry Potter amusing either. But my Mother-in-law loves the movies. I have to get her to read the books :)
I think the Harry Potter books are so amazing, just because they are simple to read and understand. To me, they are important because they can be the stepping stones to reading other literature.

mouna said...

i too, was caught in a similar situation. in a group wh9ich was discussing about chandamama, jataka tales.. the sorts.

what is to be appreciated is the easiness with which potter enthralls us. let us leave rowling alone, and enjoy the book without comparing. as u said, if it enables the reading habit, it is good.

rk said...

believe it or not: my uncle said the same thing that 'baalanagamma' and all movies of vitlachari was way ahead of its time and was anyday more thrilling than Harry Potter.

I agree with GVK sir that the potter mania is worthy of a "sociologist's attention".

my nieces were here from the US for vacation and gave me the gist of all potter stories. and the name "harry potter" inspired me to compare him with Bhaktha Kumbhara (thanks for your appreciation):

(now, eager to see vitlachari's movies with potter fans)



Aram said...

"In this scenario, the one series that has taken many kids and adults back to reading is the Harry Potter series....."

Such is the role of popular pulp fiction and ajjikatheys of chandamama, as Mouna has rightly seconded your view.

Every genre has its uses and readers.

My own reading started with Chandamaama and N. Narasimhayya, and A.Na.Kru., Biggles, until college.

Aparna Muralidhar said...

I must confess I completely skipped Harry Potter; apart from what I see of his mug on posters, I know absolutely zilch about the boy wonder, but I agree that a good writer cannot survive for long on media hype and fresh air - Rowling must have SOME talent for her to have such worldwide appeal.

December Stud said...

The question is not whetehr Potter is mediccre....I guess what the 'elders' point to is the fact that we certainly have works which are equally good, if not better and that it's just that people haven't been 'trained' to fall for them.

I am pretty sure Potter is well written. If not, it cannot sustain so many volumes. But, at the same time you just cannot neglect the marketing machinery. I wouldn't call it a hype, but certainly superb marketing.

And yes, I was never attracted to the whole Potter thing, just like how I was neevr attracted to the Lord of the Rings....I am always attracted to more 'real' stories I guess. But, that's purely my interest and nothing more.

parijata said...

Yes, That's exactly my point.

Balanagamma is a fine story. And I really loved your Hari potter.

True. Even I started reading with Chandamama, Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha and the likes, and still love them.

Rowling does have talent. She has borrowed a lot from local folktales, but putting everything into a story that is as engrossing as Harry Potter's, is quite impressive. She manages to paint almost all her characters in different shades of grey, rather than the white and black we see usually in many childrens' stories.

I remember your and R's conversation about LOTR :)
My point is that reading HP need not (in many cases I have seen, does not) preclude one from reading other, better Indian books.

I agree with your views about the marketing part. Sadly, in India, publicizing books is never seen. And when there is media attention on books, it is for all the wrong reasons.