Game of thrones

Why the censored ‘Game of Thrones’ on Indian television is so much better than you think

You don’t have to endure the often pointless sex or violence that does not shift the plot forward at all.

With the seventh season Game of Thrones around the corner, reruns of older seasons have been airing on the Star World channel. Those who care enough about the show in India to want to refresh their memories of seasons past know to steer clear of these reruns – in keeping with Indian broadcasting rules, the show, famous for its nudity and imaginative murders, has been censored to a shadow of its real self.

Game of Thrones, based on George RR Martin’s novels, is by any standard a far better produced fantasy show than most other television serials or films of the genre. The sixth season, which ran through the first half of 2016, was especially beautiful, each episode tightly scripted, characters coming into their own, the works.

But the show can also drag. After the nth digression into a scene of sex or egregious violence just to prove that this pseudo-medieval world – set for good measure in your run of the mill high fantasy milieu of the European Middle Ages with a couple of dragons and ice zombies thrown in – is in fact in some way real, I begin to yawn.

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Game of Thrones 150,966 Deaths in 21 minutes Compilation.

Which is why watching reruns of the censored version of the show on Indian television sets is such a pleasant surprise. Each season comes with 10 hour-long episodes, of which, give or take, a good fifth is pointless sex or violence that does not serve to shift the plot forward at all. Instead of having to sit through all of that, Indian censors help you through instead.

Sure, the Red Wedding might get slightly confusing and you will never really be too sure of exactly how Ned Stark died given that even his severed head on a pike is blurred out in the second season, but at least one does not have to slog through episode after endless episode of bodies that are naked or mutilated for no real reason other than to shock or titillate.

This is not a foolproof safeguard against the frequent tediousness of the show. Indian viewers will still have to endure such diversions as the Dorne subplot and Bran Stark’s journey beyond the Wall – the latter so long that even the producers of the show decided to have Bran and company sit out one season. But it does significantly reduce the length of each episode.

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A featurette on Dorne from Game of Thrones.

Of course, I might feel this way because I have only ever watched a truncated version of Game of Thrones. Well before Indian censors got their hands on the show, I had found myself unspeakably bored by all the sex and violence, and began to skip past most of those scenes instead, before abandoning the show altogether. And the only reason I returned to the show at all was the censored version on television.

I succumbed to peer conversations and began to watch the show sometime in the middle of 2014, while the fourth season was playing in the United States of America. I went through the (pirated, uncensored) first season with excitement, hung on through the second season and halfway through the third gave up the show as a lost cause because the plot just did not move.

It was not that the premise of Game of Thrones was entirely dull. I substituted the fourth and half of the fifth seasons with Wikipedia plot summaries because I wanted to keep pace with developments. I was just too lazy to bother to sit through it myself.

Ramsay Bolton tortures Theon Greyjoy. Image credit: Home Box office, Inc.
Ramsay Bolton tortures Theon Greyjoy. Image credit: Home Box office, Inc.

And then, browsing idly through television channels with my mother just before the sixth season began to air in 2016, we came across censored reruns of the fifth season late one night. With a break of the equivalent of almost two seasons, I was unable to follow much of the plot or identify many of the new faces – my mother, having watched fewer episodes, floundered even more than I did. But my mother likes to watch television at night before she sleeps and since this was invariably on when I returned home, Game of Thrones slowly sucked me back in.

By the end of the fifth season, after having skipped with blissful unawareness the true depths of Ramsay Bolton’s villainy and the precise details of how Stannis Baratheon (spoiler alert) burnt his only child alive, I was hooked once again and ready for the sixth season.

This one I watched uncensored.

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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.