By Adam Spunberg and Savanna New

Tanvi Berwah...in District 12?

It’s pretty common these days for people to cite the decline of America, comparing our crumbling education system and inflated sense of entitlement to that of ascending countries. Today, we speak with someone who — well, let’s just say she won’t make American patriots feel a whole lot better. Armed with a profound appreciation for Young Adult literature and a wicked sense of the English tongue, we are thrilled to interview Tanvi Berwah, a Hunger Games fan site administrator from New Delhi, India.

Adam: I’m absolutely blown away by how well-versed you are in English literature, but what’s even more incredible to me is how global these books have become. How popular are The Hunger Games and other fantasy series like Harry Potter in India?

Tanvi: Very. The only reason you don’t hear about it is because the authors/actors don’t make an appearance here. Almost everyone in my contact has read and watched Harry Potter, Twilight, The Golden Compass, The Lord of the Rings, and more. The Hunger Games is comparatively new in the market, but you can see them in bookstores and they sell well. India is a huge commercial market.

Savanna: Maybe after they see this interview, the producers of the Hunger Games films will be inspired to hold premieres in India!

Why do you think Young Adult (YA) series like Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, et cetera, are so universally appealing? It seems like they find success with everyone, everywhere, regardless of age and nationality.

Tanvi: I guess it would be because of the “real” characters in them. They’re full of flaws; you can identify with them more readily than, say, something from literary fiction like The Kite Runner. YA books are action-packed and deal with mostly fantastical situations blended so well with regular life, it is more appealing to this inner child inside all of us. [Take] Twilight, for example. Because the character of Bella was actually blank, a girl, any girl, could picture herself in place of Bella and dream of this absolutely perfect love story (even if it’s in a twisted sense).

Adam: I think you’re really onto something when you talk about rediscovering the “inner child” inside us. YA has taken off in America for the same reason, and it seems to be growing by the year.

Let’s talk about you for a second. When did you first discover your love of YA, and what inspired you to start the Hunger Games fan site?

Tanvi: I was always an avid reader. My first love is Harry Potter and will remain so. As I myself delved into writing YA, I discovered this hidden underworld of YA writing. There were so many books, each one as similar and as different than the next. Twilight, of course, was everywhere. I read many other series following these and YA standalones before landing on Hunger Games. A friend used to talk about a certain Peeta Mellark a lot for me to ignore. So I decided to check the books out, and they blew me away. I finished the first two in four days and then had to wait a long, long time for Mockingjay. Since I already was into the fan site business, I opened Hunger Games Network simply to pass some time. That it grew so big is completely another thing. But it was mostly because Hunger Games deserves a lot more attention.

Savanna: Sites like yours have been instrumental in bringing Hunger Games fans together. It’s only a matter of time before they gain enough strength to triumph over both “Twihards” and “Potterheads” in the arena…

We talked briefly about the universal appeal of YA literature. What do you think it is about Hunger Games specifically that generates so much interest and has made the trilogy an international bestseller?

Tanvi: It’s different. The voice is unique, fast-paced, and therefore was like a breath of fresh air in the vampires-and-werewolves hullabaloo. The characters are well-defined and very emotionally appealing. Part of The Hunger Games‘ charm lies in how emotionally moving Katniss and Peeta are. The love triangle thing here actually makes sense. As for the plot, it’s fantastic. Here is a YA story with actual plots and dialogues, where one is not simply interested in whether she ends up with the baker boy or the hunter, but whether she becomes the Mockingjay and pushes back the tyranny. It was both a critical and mass success, because it has everything!

Adam: Introducing Tanvi Berwah, PR rep for Lionsgate. Seriously though, they ought to hire you to endorse the film, because you really hone in well on its best attributes. They could at least tab you for the South Asia region. Anyway…

Panem is viewed by many as a later-day America (we know this because of references to the Appalachians and Rocky Mountains), but do you think it resonates with India and other parts of the world where your fans reside?

Tanvi: Everywhere. I like to think of Panem as the entire world since [we see] no mention of even a remote country. When I think of today’s world, it is so like Panem. The blatant tyranny, the crushing of uprisings — the Arab World, for example, and closer to my home, Kashmir — are perfect parallels. We read about things in the media, but ultimately, that’s all a glossed-up version — just like what the Capitol did with District 13 images.

Adam and Savanna: Thank you so much for your worldly, insightful answers. To see more of Tanvi’s work, visit her Hunger Games Network site or follow her on Twitter. More importantly, stay tuned for the second part of our series, which will appear next week and compare Suzanne Collins’ dystopian creation to our modern-day world.

Adam Spunberg is a senior writer at Picktainment and founder of the Austen Twitter Project. Email him at adam@picktainment.com or tweet @AdamSpunberg.

Savanna New is an associate editor at Picktainment. Email her at
savanna@picktainment.com.