It is very difficult to mourn the loss of someone you did not know personally but have been affected by since you were a little boy. For those of us who were Potterheads since our fifth grades, Severus Snape has been a crucial part of our lives. We loathed him, hated him, and like Harry, as we grew older, we tried to understand the complexity of the character. And finally, when we were introduced to his pathetic past and heartbreaking sacrifices, we hated ourselves for misunderstanding the man (and Rowling, for letting us feel that way).
Every actor might just have been replaceable in the Potter series. Heck, Dumbledore was portrayed by two actors. In a world so outrageous and fictitious, we rarely got attached to the actors because the characters overpowered their individual personalities. Not Rickman. Rickman made Snape what he is. It is also common knowledge that Rowling shared Snape’s fate with Rickman even before the final two books were released just so that he could play the character accordingly. Because the complexity and stoic/sombre/brooding menace of Snape is the result of multiple layers and a history so painful that it struck a chord with adults as much as young readers and moviegoers. That voice, the sneering lip curl, the raising of the eyebrows that always meant trouble – Alan Rickman single-handedly crafted one of world cinema’s most enduring and complex characters.
And it wasn’t just Snape. There was Hans Gruber, the evil villain in Die Hard whom we all love to hate. Rickman had style – he wasn’t a grubby dude out for your life. He knew the beauty of fear and torture and his characters came to life because of his innate understanding of human behaviour. This quality was also evident during his time on stage and his ability to portray a variety of well-sketched roles with ease. But, because of his strong personality (and that distinctive voice we have all grown up to love – also, will we ever get over that slick drawl and those intimidating pregnant pauses?), there was always a sliver of Rickman in all the characters he took up. Be it Antoine Richis in Perfume or the adorable (and polar opposite to his regular villainous fare) Harry in Love Actually, or – my other favourite Rickman role – the despicable Judge Turpin in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd. Rickman’s duet of “Pretty Women” with Johnny Depp is a wonderful slice of cinema. Rickman liked his characters dark, and his humour dry and black.
Alan Rickman passed away of cancer on the 14th of January at the age of 69. But for his fans, admirers and students of his craft, in Snape’s famous words, he will be alive – “Always”. Also, it is better to remember such stalwarts in good humour. Remember Jimmy Fallon and Benedict Cumberbatch’s famous “Rickman-off”?
And Alan Rickman’s wonderful helium-laced comeback?
Closer home, we also lost respected character actor and theatre veteran, Rajesh Vivek, yesterday. Man of us remember Vivek from his roles in films like Lagaan, Swades and Jodha Akbar. Vivek studied theatre with the likes of Naseeruddin Shah at the National School of Drama and has been a close collaborator with Ashutosh Gowariker and Aamir Khan for years. Here is an entertaining ad that he did with Khan for Coke: