Monday morning struggles of the Indian Game of Thrones fan
The world's (and possibly India's) most pirated TV show, Game of Thrones, is returning with its fifth season on an HBO sister channel at 6:30am IST on April 13 -- which also happens to be a Monday. If that's not enough, the new channel -- HBO Defined -- is not quite that easy to access.
Sounds dreadful, right? Wait, it gets worse.
Game of Thrones (GoT) has a massive fan base in the country. Up until last year, here's what most fans' Monday looked like during the months the series aired:
1. They tried their best to ensure access to decent internet.
2. Those with the luxury of time set early alarms, waiting for the first versions of the episodes to be available as torrents or live streams.
3. Those not as lucky, spent their mornings hating their job, school, college, etc. By noon, they usually died inside (blame the curiousity) and by lunch they ended up hearing too many rumours and spoilers for their own good.
And, everyone knows what *that* feels like.
** The piracy conundrum **
The season four finale was illegally downloaded eight million times, according to file-sharing news site TorrentFreak. No wonder, HBO is airing the new season simultaneously in 170 countries.
According to data released by Irdeto, an anti-piracy solutions service, India ranks 10th in the list of countries illegally downloading the epic fantasy show. What's worth noting, however, is that GoT's illegal downloads from India have increased by an insane 155% from 2014 -- the sharpest rise among the top ten.
Not that this record is something to be proud of, it does show the helplessness of the Indian GoT fan.
HBO has tried to fill some gaps with its channel HBO Defined which will not only air each episode the day it premiers, but will also run a repeat telecast at 10pm IST. It is, of course, not as easy as it sounds.
HBO Defined comes with a monthly fee on select DTH service providers including DishTV, Airtel Digital TV and Hathaway, among others. For Tata Sky users, it's hard luck if they don't have a High Definition set-top box as the channel is only available on Tata Sky HD.
Furthermore, apps like HBO GO and HBO Now are not available in Indian app-stores as well.
Such atrocities by HBO have left many Indian GoT fans leaving "torrent zindabad (all hail torrent)" comments on Facebook posts about the series.
Though, maybe, it's better that way.
GoT is popular (or notorious) for adult content and graphic violence. The series was, in fact, criticised by many last year for its liberal treatment of rape.
Considering that and Indian laws, one can be sure that HBO India will be scrutinising every scene to ensure it doesn't wander into troubled waters.
Now, who really wants to see a censored version? Or a ban?
** Excitement galore **
Each Game of Thrones season comprises of 10 well-paced episodes that steadily build characters until they're suddenly killed off in the most gruesome fashion. Scalding hot molten gold, crushing faces with bare hands, mass murder in a wedding ceremony... you name it, they've probably done it.
Sneak peaks, trailers and pictures of season five have been promising enough to leave GoT crazies frothing at the mouth. Sansa Stark looks stunning as a brunette and everyone's favourite Tyrion can be seen in a rugged, bearded avatar. The mother of dragons Daenerys Targaryen is also expected grow stronger and wield a lot more power. In a first, two major characters Bran Stark and Hodor will not be seen throught the season.
At the end, however, fans know they can can't be too committed to a particular character. After all, all men must die.
(The writer is a Game of Thrones fangirl and the views expressed here by her are personal. She's on Twitter @saxenavishakha)