The hooting and clapping were deafening as Harry Potter appeared on screen in Chennai’s (Madras) second oldest multiplex theatre, Satyam. Adorned with huge cardboard figures of the boy wizard, the cinema that premiered the latest Potter adventure, “The Order of the Phoenix” on Thursday night (July 12 2007) found it hard to cope with the rush of excited children who had braved the evening’s heavy rain to be part of the Pottermania. As one made one’s way over the red carpet jostling through the crowd of the city’s adults as well, a fair sprinkling of film celebrities included, one was struck by the fact that no premiere in recent times had attracted such a large number of children, many barely seven or eight years old, gleefully waving magic wands and sporting black hats. That evening, they forgot their popcorns, for the problems of Potter seemed to grip them, and every time the boy won a point the young audience broken into shrieks and shouts.
The hysteria seemed close enough to the one we saw when Tamil superstar Rajnikanth’s “Sivaji-The Boss” began screening some weeks ago, and the Potter fans at Satyam appeared all keyed up about the kiss in the movie. In India where a kiss causes frenzy – the latest is the one between Bollywood star Bipasha Basu and Cristiano Ronaldo in Lisbon – Daniel Radcliffe’s liplock with Katie Leung in “The Order of the Phoenix”, made young fans delirious, often to the discomfort of accompanying parents.
And now, all things Potter, be it butter beer, quidditch or even something as phantasmagoric as unicorns, have started to feature in conversations, not just in schools and colleges, but even in the most unlikeliest of places like local trains and buses. A school teacher in Delhi says eight and nine-year-old children in her class have gone virtually “potty” after watching Rowling’s fifth work on screen.
In cinemas across India, tickets for the Potter movie were sold out several days in advance for the first week. With 300 prints in original English and dubbed Hindi, Tamil and Telugu languages, the Potter picture is expected to surpass recent Hollywood blockbusters such as “Spider-Man 3” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The only speed-breaker Potter can face is the kiss with Indian parents deciding that it may be a little too steamy for their young children.
(Webposted July 15 2007)