Appetite for destruction

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Cinema As “The Hunger Games” opens today, here's a look at Suzanne Collins' fast-paced and deeply disturbing trilogy that inspired the movie

Will it remain true to the book?
Will it remain true to the book?"The Hunger Games"

“The Hunger Games” is an irresistible blend of shock and awe. A televised battle to death between children where audience hold the power to help or destroy is too horrific to even contemplate. That is, however, the plot of Suzanne Collins' book, which was inspired in equal parts by reality shows, war coverage, the Theseus legend and gladiatorial battles of ancient Rome. The book, the first of a trilogy was released in September 2008. One reads the breathless page-turner with horrified fascination rooting all along for the 16-year-old protagonist Katniss Everdeen.

Wealth and power

Set in a post-apocalyptic world in a country called Panem, the book tells the story of children pitted against each other in a deadly fight for survival. Panem is ruled by the wealthy and powerful Capitol and President Snow whose breath smells of roses and blood. As punishment for a rebellion 70 years ago, which resulted in the destruction of District 13, the remaining 12 districts pay with their children's lives.

Every year, there is a lottery or a Reaping, and two children or tributes in the age group 12 to 18 are selected to compete in the games. Eerily echoing reality shows, the tributes are taken to the Capitol and given a makeover where an army of stylists creates the look for the contestants. There is also an interview where the contestants are introduced to the viewers. It is important to make a good impression as the public can send food and crucial supplies to the players.

Katniss comes from District 12, the mining district, and after her father's death has been illegally hunting to support her mother and sister, Prim. When 12-year-old Prim's name is called out at her first Reaping, Katniss announces that she will take her place. Along with the other tribute from District 12, Peeta, the baker's son, Katniss steps into the arena where her hunting skills stand her in good stead.

Her stylist is the talented Cinna who designs her look as the girl on fire with a simple unitard and artificial fire to echo her mining roots. A mockingjay pin, given to Katniss by her friend completes her look. The mockingjay is a genetically-engineered bird, which is adopted as a symbol of the revolution against the Capitol. Effie Trinket is the official escort, and the drunk Haymitch Abernathy, the only living victor from District 12, mentors the two tributes. “The Hunger Games” was followed by “Catching Fire” (2009) and the concluding part of the trilogy “Mockingjay” (2010).

Subverting the system

The books, similar to that other publishing phenomenon, the Millennium trilogy, are powered by its protagonist. Like Lisbeth Salander, the tattooed and pierced bisexual hacker, Katniss is a vulnerable outsider who still manages to buck the system. The way she does it — by subverting the system is what gives the books that extra charge. And then there are, of course, incredible action set pieces, the makeover complete with talented stylist and romance — Katniss has more in common with her hunting partner Gale, but is not sure of her feelings for Peeta who did her an unforgettable kindness when they were children.

Where there is a successful book, can the screen adaptation be far behind? Writer Collins is one of the producers as well as the screenwriter on the film version. Directed by Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit,” “Pleasantville”), the movie had more than 30 actors, including Abigail Breslin, Emma Roberts and Saoirse Ronan read for Katniss before the role went to Jennifer Lawrence. Others in the cast include Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Liam Hemsworth as Gale, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, Stanley Tucci as the interviewer Caesar Flickerman and Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow.

With Collins closely associated with the film, one can hope that the translation onto screen would remain true to the book. On the other hand, a reverential adaptation would not be much fun either. Let's see how Ross and his crew traverse that thin red line!


The book was inspired by reality shows, war coverage, the Theseus legend and gladiatorial battles of ancient Rome




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