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.

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.

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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Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues

With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.

Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:

1. Billions

There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.

Watch Billions Now

2. Westworld

What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.

Watch Westworld Now

3. Big Little Lies

It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.

Watch Big Little Lies Now

4. The Night of

The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.

Watch The Night Of Now

5. American Horror Story

As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.

Watch American Horror Story Now

6. Empire

At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.

Watch Empire Now

7. Modern Family

When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.

Watch Modern Family Now

8. The Deuce

Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.

Watch The Deuce Now

9. Dexter

In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.

Available starting October

10. Rome

If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.

Watch Rome Now

For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.