A sex scene in Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” featuring a line from Hindu holy scripture “Bhagavad Gita” has led to protests even as the film rakes it in at the box office.
The film was passed with a U/A certificate by India’s Central Board of Film Certification.
SPOILER ALERT: The sex scene features Cillian Murphy as Robert Oppenheimer and Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock. Pugh stops during intercourse, gets up and goes over to the bookshelf, picks out a copy of the “Bhagavad Gita” and asks Murphy to read from it. Murphy reads the line “I am become Death, destroyer of worlds,” the quote from the “Bhagavad Gita” that Oppenheimer famously thought of when the first nuclear bomb was detonated.
The 700-verse “Bhagavad Gita” – literally the word of God – is a part of the Indian epic “Mahabharata” and consists of a dialogue on a battlefield between the prince Arjuna and the divine Krishna as the former undergoes a moral dilemma.
India flocked to see “Oppenheimer” in Imax and other formats from shows beginning as early as 3am, as Nolan is a huge draw in the country. Protests began on social media almost immediately after.
Among them was Uday Mahurkar, a journalist who was appointed by the Indian government as an information commissioner in 2020. Mahurkar is also the founder of the Save Culture Save India Foundation.
In a letter addressed to Nolan on Twitter, Mahurkar wrote on behalf of the foundation:
“It has come to our notice that the movie ‘Oppenheimer’ contains a scene which make a scathing attack on Hinduism. As per social media reports, a scene in the movie shows a woman makes a man read Bhagwad Geeta aloud while getting over him and doing sexual intercourse. She is holding Bhagwad Geeta in one hand, and the other hands seems to be adjusting the position of their reproductive organs. The Bhagwad Geeta is one of the most revered scriptures of Hinduism. Geeta has been the inspiration for countless sanyasis, brahmcharis and legends who live a life of self-control and perform selfless noble deeds. We do not know the motivation and logic behind this unnecessary scene on life of a scientist. But this is a direct assault on religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus, rather it amounts to waging a war on the Hindu community and almost appears to be part of a larger conspiracy by anti-Hindu forces.”
The letter goes on to say that Hollywood “is very sensitive about the fact that Quran and Islam is not depicted in any manner that may offend the value system of a common Muslim, even if you make something based on Islamist terrorism,” and asks, “Why should not the same courtesy be also extended to Hindus?”
The letter urges Nolan to “remove this scene from your film across world” and adds, “Should you choose to ignore this appeal it would be deemed as a deliberate assault on Indian civilisation.”
Meanwhile, the film is a box office success in India, grossing $3.6 million in its first two days of release, comfortably outperforming “Barbie,” which collected $1.2 million.
This is not the first time a quote from the “Bhagavad Gita” has been used in a Hollywood studio picture. An orgy scene in Stanley Kubrick’s last film “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999) featured the lines “For the protection of the virtuous, for the destruction of evil and for the firm establishment of Dharma, I take birth and am incarnated on Earth, from age to age.” Following protests from Hindu groups, Warner Bros. edited out the lines from the soundtrack.
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