Millions of Indians love watching Game of Thrones (GoT)—and for some of them, that involves overcoming a hefty language barrier.
English access is a complicated issue in India. While an estimated 30% of the country’s 1.3 billion people have some aptitude in the language, only a much smaller fraction is estimated to have full proficiency. Little surprise, then, that among Indians who watch HBO’s epic fantasy series—an estimated 5.5 million pirated the first episode of the current season (season 8) besides those watching it on Indian streaming partner Hotstar—not all are completely fluent in English.
Fauziya Reyaz, a 31-year-old video creator, translator, and journalist based in Noida, started a YouTube channel in 2017 to address this language barrier for at least one such segment.
She makes videos for Hindi-speakers who want help in understanding English-language entertainment, especially the George RR Martin fantasy epic. Reyaz’s videos discuss GoT and recap its episodes, as well as other western shows and movies.
The response has been overwhelming. Her channel, called “Watch Roz” (“roz” means “daily” in Hindi), has grown rapidly since its launch in July 2017. It currently has 170,000 subscribers, having gained almost 30,000 in the last 30 days alone.
Quartz spoke to Reyaz about her experience making these videos, her thoughts on western media’s resonance with Indian audiences, and how she’d like to see GoT end.
Why did you start making these videos?
I started reading GoT books three years ago, and they were awesome. I started watching English videos of GoT on Got Academy and other channels. I also wanted my mother to watch the show. She doesn’t understand English, so I would tell her the story—who’s Arya, who’s Sansa, who’s Ned Stark. I began making videos to help people understand the show if they have trouble with English. I’m privileged in that at least I understand the language.
What kind of interactions do you have with your viewers?
People come to my channel because, through English CDs, shows, and movies, they’re trying to understand a different culture. Sometimes they say, “I’m trying to improve my English and watching Game of Thrones helps me do that. Nobody in my house talks in English.” Most of my viewers are from north India and Maharashtra. But I get messages from people all over India—south India, even Dantewada (a remote area in central India’s Chhattisgarh state), from villages, small towns. People have written to me from Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. There are people who haven’t even watched a single episode but they have watched all of my videos. I tell them no, don’t do this! I’m just a medium—don’t stop here!
Why do you think those viewers watch your videos and not GoT itself?
Maybe sometimes they aren’t allowed to watch that content in their homes. There are scenes which are taboo, like sex scenes. I try to cover those scenes in an appropriate manner; I try not to use the word “sex.” For example, I use the term hambistar hue—an Urdu phrase for “slept with someone.” I do this kind of thing because I want people who aren’t adults—who are, say, 15 or 16—to watch my videos, even if they may not be allowed to watch GoT. There are people who tell me: “I’m recommending my sister to watch your videos. She doesn’t watch Game of Thrones because of these explicit scenes, but she can at least watch your videos.” But only around 20% of my viewers are women—I don’t like it, actually. I want that figure to improve.
Take us through your process of creating a GoT recap video.
I try to watch the episode at 6:30 am when it airs. Normally I watch it with my brother and sister. Then I start rewatching it. I film the video, then edit it immediately because I want it to be published on the same day in order to get traffic. It’s basically a total process of around 10 hours. Editing is not my forte: I’ve learned how to use Adobe Premium Pro through YouTube. It used to take up to 15 hours for me to finish a video, but I’ve gotten faster.
What other content do you plan on doing once GoT is done airing?
I’m also thinking about that. So far, I have a playlist on my channel called “Bonus From the Books,” where I try to explain things which are not covered in the show. So I could do more of that. I’ve done videos on almost every episode of Westworld, too. They haven’t done well so far, but I think the show’s popularity will grow. Only the first two seasons are out, and nobody in India knew about GoT after just two seasons. I’ve also done videos for Interstellar, Inception, Dunkirk—Christopher Nolan movies always work. Interstellar took a lot of time to understand. I watched so many of Neil DeGrasse Tyson videos to get it!
Do you ever face copyright strikes from HBO or other production houses?
Copyright strikes happen, but normally they’re released. If there’s a strike on a video, I reply to them and say I’m doing this for a video for a social cause—because the show or movie is not available in Hindi. They normally release it. None of my GoT videos or Westworld videos has a strike. I think HBO’s very nice about it; there’s so much content on YouTube related to GoT, and they’re letting it happen. I think they understand that some people who didn’t watch GoT are now watching it—maybe through me or through other channels that have introduced them to the series.
It’s not always like that. I did a video on Shutter Island, used only 10 or 12 seconds of video, but it has a strike. All the money I make from it goes to the studio.
Who do you hope ends up on the Iron Throne?
I don’t want Arya to be on the throne, but I want her to be alive and safe, and I want her to travel the world. In a previous season, she said “What is west of Westeros? It’s not on the map.” So I want her to go on that journey and enjoy her life. I also want Tyrion to be alive. Otherwise, I don’t care about the throne—anybody can have it. As long as these two characters can be safe, the Night King can sit on it, I don’t care. But I don’t want to hope for anything with George RR Martin involved. Why even dream if those dreams will be shattered?