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‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ : The Film starring Eddie Redmayne Tackles Bigotry and Racism

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If you are a Harry Potter fan, you may be disappointed with the new Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Then again, you may be disappointed if you are not a Harry Potter fan.

There are pros and cons to the film: David Yates, a veteran Harry Potter filmmaker, recreates the magical world we came to love in the Harry Potter franchise, but without its iconic characters.

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Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling penned the screenplay around the magical society of New York City, an ocean away from Hogwart’s School of Wizardry and long before the story of “the boy who lived” unfolded.

The new fantasy genre is only very thinly linked to the Harry Potter epic, so many fans may find it too foreign.

New York in 1926, with witches

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes place in the Big Apple in 1926. An unseen force is terrorizing New Yorkers. Unable to explain the metaphysical phenomena, people are warning against witchcraft and calling for a witch-hunt.

Rowling says her goal was to showcase a different magical culture in America, where magical people hid their identity for fear of persecution.

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The society appears much smaller and less intricate than the English magical society, and the laws governing their daily lives are far more restrictive than the ones in England. For example, American magical people can never intermarry with the non-maj, the equivalent of English muggles.

FILE - Actors Dan Fogler (from left) Alison Sudol, Katherine Waterston and Eddie Redmayne pose for photographers for the film 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,' at a central London hotel, Oct. 13, 2016. VOA
FILE – Actors Dan Fogler (from left) Alison Sudol, Katherine Waterston and Eddie Redmayne pose for photographers for the film ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,’ at a central London hotel, Oct. 13, 2016. VOA

Newt Scamander, an English magical zoologist and the main character of the story, finds himself at the epicenter of the crisis. Scamander has recently arrived in New York City with a case full of endangered magical creatures that he plans to release into their natural habitats. Before he can do so, some of his creatures escape in the middle of the city during mysterious attacks against New Yorkers.

Looking for a scapegoat, The Magical Congress of the United States of America pins the attacks on Scamander’s creatures and arrests the zoologist.

Newt Scamander’s connection to Potter

Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, is no Harry Potter, but there is a link between the two characters. Newt Scamander was the famed author of a textbook Harry Potter used at school.

“While I was writing Potter I became quite interested in Newt Scamander,” Rowling said, “so I knew quite a lot about Newt. He’s been travelling the world studying magical creatures.”

She speaks of Scamander as if he were a character outside the realm of her creative imagination.

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The author, however, has yet to see him really develop. So far, he is not as nuanced and complex as Harry Potter was. And that applies to the whole cast of the story. The new characters don’t carry the spark the previous ones did, making it difficult to believe that they were created by the same person who dreamed up Harry and Voldemort.

This does not mean the story is bad. The film is reminiscent of a Harry Potter production. The special effects are great, and Rowling creates an otherworldly dimension of exotic animals living in a battered leather briefcase with no space boundaries inside. The case is reminiscent of Hermione’s magic purse from which she could pull out an inordinate number of items, including a sleeping tent.

Scamander manages to pass his case through New York customs officers but loses it to an accidental switch with a look-alike belonging to a non-magical person, Jacob Kowalski. He is a cherubic aspiring baker, an average Joe. At first, Kowalski is terrified by the magical world, but then he embraces it. The fact that he falls for a beautiful witch helps.

Kowalski steals the show

Dan Fogler offers the best performance of the cast as Kowalski, who warms our hearts and charms us with his unassuming expressiveness and inner wisdom. He is so charming, he steals the show from Redmayne and his wizarding lot. Hopefully, we’ll get to see him in future episodes.

Academy Award winner Redmayne offers a good performance as the resourceful Scamander, who escapes the magical council and tries to retrieve his creatures before the council finds and destroys them.

There is romance in the story, too. Affection slowly develops between Scamander and Tina, a former council investigator who is trying to protect him. The best chemistry, however, is between Tina’s gorgeous magical sister, Queenie, and pudgy Jacob.

The four of them set out to retrieve the escaped creatures, exonerate Scamander and find out who really is behind the attacks. It may come as no surprise that these are some of the same culprits who afflicted the Harry Potter world.

“There are ways in which we connect the Potter books that people will find surprising,” Rowling said. “We are talking about the first time a wizard grows and threatens the world order,” she said, reminding us that Harry Potter’s theme of opposition to bigotry and to the idea of racial purity of magical folk against ordinary people is repeated in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

While Potter fans can revel in the message and the magic of the movie, the script falls rather flat, and the cast does not quite excite as Harry Potter’s did; however, Rowling promises more to come in this newly developed franchise. Despite the slow start, Harry Potter fans can live on that promise. (VOA)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)