Always, Professor Snape

Here’s a simple experiment. Fill a glass bowl with water, dip a paintbrush in some paint, choose any colour you like, and slowly, carefully touch the tip of the brush to the water surface and watch….Watch how the colour gently seeps from the bristles into the water, watch how it forms a thin colourful ripple that eventually dissolves through and through until the water takes the colour. In less than a second, the water and the colour become one.

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When the first Harry Potter book was plopped into my hands nearly 15 years ago, it was a significant moment in my childhood. The only literary character who had dictated my life until then was Sherlock Holmes and I thought there wasn’t any room enough of another series occupying a symbolic place in it.

Harry Potter, however, changed that. Harry Potter was for everyone. Harry Potter was an escape. An escape into the magical world of evil and good. It was a time when smartphones were yet to penetrate the daily folds of general day-to-day life and reading was a solace found in the smell of a fresh book. With Harry Potter, the summer holidays were like an endless dream.

Who was the first person you hated when you started reading Harry Potter? Voldemort was the obvious expectation. A ruthless villain, a murderer, a manipulator, a dark powerful wizard, who symbolized the evilest of all evils. But he was still an unknown entity in book one. The rage one felt towards Voldemort was still to be established. The acrimony felt towards him magnified due to the affection one felt towards Harry. There was Draco Malfoy. But he was like that annoying  guy in school, you loved to hate. It wasn’t until you were introduced to Professor Severus Snape, you realized, how effortless it was to feel an instant dislike towards someone. It was those little thing – the way he pegged down Harry and Hermione a few notches right at the beginning, to his habit of cutting down points from Gryffindor, his obvious affinity towards the ‘Defence against Dark Arts’ positio – it was so so easy to curse Snape, to exercise a hatred towards him reserved only for a few special people. So when Snape was soon established as Dumbledore’s trusted man, the secret that spanned seven books and several years in between only heightened our curiosity. There were subtle hints but never the complete truth and when it was finally broken during the end of last book, a realization hit with undiminished force – Severus Snape, was probably, the most powerful character in Harry Potter series.

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I do not know what kind of TV culture other kids grew on but my brother and I grew up on a healthy diet of Cricket and Tennis, Tom and Jerry, Popeye, Disney classics, and a massive chunk of action movies. Bruce Lee, Jean Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, you name it. Our TV culture was an eclectic mix of varied entities. And it wasn’t a surprise when Die Hard, when we saw it, rapidly climbed to the top position on our ‘Awesomest movies ever seen’ list. As preteens, it was easy to get carried away with the classic actions of the 1990s. Bruce Willis’ dimpled smile, his vest clad body shining with perspiration as he navigates his way through the commercial building all the while making his way towards German terrorist Hans Gruber and his entourage is something I remember more distinctly than any lessons from my school books. Willis, lovable as always, was dear but there was something deeply attractive about Rickman playing the cold, calculating, and sophisticated Hans Gruber. It was a role that defined him to the general population and in the thirteen years that followed, he went on to star and mesmerize audience with his multi-faceted personality and his powerful unhurried voice. Part of what made Rickman who he was was he way of delivering dialogues, his voice conveying veiled threats with an ease that skips a lot of genius actors. So, thirteen years and several more films – the second part of Die Hard, the Robin Hood movie in which he played the Sheriff of Nottingham, and surprisingly the more tender ones like Truly, Madly, Deeply and Sense and Sensibility – only highlighted Rickman’s multidimensional persona.

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snape

Very few movies do justice to the books they are based upon. Fewer actors justify the character they are based upon. The expectations from a Harry Potter movie were huge. Was the Wizarding world as exciting on screen as it was in the books? And more importantly were the people playing the important characters were worthy enough?

That guy from the movie Die Hard…..that villain….he is playing Severus Snape…Sounds perfect?

In 2001 when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hit theatres, only the first three of the Harry Potter books were out. J.K.Rowling had convinced Rickman that there was something more to the character of Severus Snape than what was public knowledge until then. In years to come, it was a character that became synonymous with him until he passed away. Nearly ever Rickman tribute after his death described him first as a character in Harry Potter movies, artists paid tribute with sketches that showed him dressed as Severus Snape, with a wand or a cauldron or with his patronus…..accompanied by one of the most famous dialogues ever written, a single word ….‘Always’

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Greasy long hair parted in the middle, an aquiline large nose, a pale face, a lank body clad in black robes, a permanent sneer, thin pursed lips, beady penetrating eyes – oh the disdain that radiated from him! He was a narcissist, a subject of much chagrin among people. There was no doubt about one thing though – the casting was perfect. There couldn’t have been a better Severus Snape than Alan Rickman. It was impossible.

For his part, it was as if Snape took extra precaution to instill hatred in people who crossed his path. He was one of the most misunderstood characters in literature – a misunderstanding Albus Dumbledore never cleared for the greater good. By the time the memory that redeemed him was revealed to the readers, Snape had ingrained himself in our lives as a confusing individual. However, the realization that his entire existence was solely and solely based on the love he had for Lily Potter, was disturbing. It was an emotional moment that brought fresh tears to a saga that had spanned for years. In a blink of an eye, all made sense. The explanation was simple enough and if, perhaps, we would have been party to Snape’s secret at the beginning, the magnanimity of his sacrifice might have lost on us. Rickman made Snape believable. Rickman made Snape deplorable. Rickman made Snape human….well, as human as a wizard can be. From his attire to his speech, from his smirk to his piercing gaze, we finally embraced Snape. Love was always the premise of Rowling’s books and Snape taught us the deeper, darker, sadder side of love that we, perhaps, would have never understood.

Rowling made Snape powerful. Rickman made Snape immortal.

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If his life was the bowl, Alan Rickman was the water and Severus Snape was the colour. In the end, they became one. Indistinguishable. Bound together in eternity…Always…

 

 

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