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Indian viewers lapping up pirated American series

A day before Emmys, fans of American TV series in India have already chosen their favourites soaps despite the fact that many of them are yet to come to India ‘legally’.

tv Updated: Sep 21, 2013 19:03 IST
Jyoti Sharma Bawa

Water cooler talk is said to be a good barometer of people’s mindsets and tastes. And at water coolers across India at present, if people are not busy pitting Rahul Gandhi against Narendra Modi or dissecting the boss’s latest missive, they are most probably discussing Homeland.

If you have to ask, Homeland what, maybe you should stop reading now. The rest can go on discussing the Season 3 trailer of the wildly popular American telly show which will be back on screen later this month.

When we say screens, we mean the US screens. But does that faze the soap buffs back home in India? No, nyet, nein. They will simply download it online via file sharing sites without worrying that it is illegal. The latest episode is online within minutes of its screening and on to your hard-drive soon after that.

“The other option is to wait for months for it to be telecast in India and you really don’t want to do that. People are talking about the shows online, your friends abroad have seen them and you end up knowing what happens long before you actually get to see the show on Indian television. It is like eating a great dish after it has gone stale,” says Amit B, a 30-year-old manager at a BPO who spent sleepless nights watching Prison Break back-to-back recently.

On Sunday as Emmy awards are telecast all across the world, fans in India have already chosen their favourites from the contenders for drama series – House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Downtown Abbey and Mad Men. It doesn’t matter that some of these have not made their way ‘legally’ to India yet.

Ask these same people about which Indian soap they like and the answer would be a lot of ‘uhhs’ and ‘umms’ followed by a diatribe about that ‘saas-bahu nonsense’. “I work really long hours and once back at home, want I want to watch a show I can relate to.

Indian TV makes shows with homemakers in mind who are their target audience. Give me something cutting-edge, smart and witty and I will watch it,” said Divya A, a 28-year-old HR professional who has the last season of The Big Bang Theory on her iPad at present. “One episode lasts 20 minutes and I watch it while returning home from work,” she explained.

A generation brought up on the re-runs of Baywatch and Dynasty, the young Indians are target consumers of English TV channels which bring these shows to India.

“I only wish they would do it faster. The third season of Suits began in mid-July in the US and it is only now that we are getting to watch it. And even this is incredibly faster because initially we got to see the series two years after it premiered in America in 2011,” said Alok S, who has “obviously” watched all the episodes in the latest season the day after they were shown in America.

And then there is the big grouse: senseless censoring. “Indian censors behave as if we are three-year-olds whose innocence must be preserved at any cost. Even if those beeps turn thrillers into comedies. *itch becomes witch, the word sex is beeped out and any naked part of the body is a strict no-no. I would rather watch shows I have downloaded so that I know what I am watching. And if it hurts my sensibilities, it is my problem,” said Myraa S, an economics student in DU.

And that little matter of piracy… it is their problem as well. Right now, they are busy planning how to download the Emmy Awards ceremony!

(Names have been changed to protect identity)