regular-article-logo Tuesday, 12 December 2023

'Oppenheimer' sparks social media controversy over sex scene featuring Sanskrit scripture

The 180 minute-long sprawling biographical drama on the titular American theoretical physicist, opened in India on Friday to positive reviews and has reportedly amassed close to Rs 30 crore at the box office in two days

PTI New Delhi Published 23.07.23, 03:13 PM
Theatrical release poster.

Theatrical release poster. Instagram/oppenheimermovie

A scene in "Oppenheimer", in which the titular character appears to have sex as he reads out verses from an ancient Sanskrit scripture, has irked a section of social media users, who claimed the lines are from the Bhagavad Gita and demanded the removal of the sequence from Christopher Nolan's latest film.

"Oppenheimer", a 180 minute-long sprawling biographical drama on the titular American theoretical physicist, opened in India on Friday to positive reviews and has reportedly amassed close to Rs 30 crore at the box office in two days.


Uday Mahurkar, Information Commissioner, Government of India, wrote an open letter to Nolan, terming the scene a "disturbing attack on Hinduism" and appealed to the director to remove the scene worldwide.

"We urge, on behalf of billion Hindus and timeless tradition of lives being transformed by revered Geeta, to do all that is needed to uphold dignity of their revered book and remove this scene from your film across world. Should you choose to ignore this appeal it would be deemed as a deliberate assault on Indian civilisation. Eagerly await needful action (sic)" Mahurkar, founder of Save Culture Save India Foundation, wrote.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, regarded as 'the father of the atom bomb', had learnt Sanskrit and was said to be influenced by the Bhagavad Gita. In an interview, the physicist had recalled that the only thought which came to his mind after he witnessed the first detonation of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945, was a verse from the ancient Hindu text -- "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of world." In the film, Oppenheimer -- played by Cillian Murphy -- is shown having sex with psychologist Jean Tatler (Florence Pugh) as she asks him to read a verse from what appears to be a Sanskrit book, whose title or cover is not visible. On Tatler's insistence, a confused Oppenheimer reads out the verse she points at: "Now, I am become Death, destroyer of the world." According to reports, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) gave the film a U/A rating, making it suitable for viewers above 13 years, after studio Universal Pictures cut some scenes to reduce its length.

In the US, the movie has been rated 'R– Restricted', which means viewers under 17 would require accompanying parent or adult guardian. This is Nolan's first R rated film.

In his post, Mahurkar said he was "perplexed as to how the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) could approve the movie with this scene." There was no immediate response from CBFC chairperson Prasoon Joshi and other members of the censor board, when contacted.

Some users called for the boycott of "Oppenheimer".

"I just learned there is a highly offensive scene involving the Bhagavad Gita in it. I will not repeat it here, but it involves something explicit. Never trust Hollywood and West to depict Hinduism positively and accurately (sic)" a user said.

"Hindus have been celebrating the mention of the Bhagwad Gita in the Oppenheimer movie, but they are left angry and perplexed at the blatant disrespect of the Gita by Hollywood. Mentioning holy verses while having sex is considered disrespectful and racist. #BoycottOpenheimer (sic)" wrote another.

One termed the scene "unnecessary".

"#ChristopherNolan can put Bhagvat geeta anywhere in the movie but idk why he showed that in this scene, I know that book had impacted #Oppenheimer in many ways but this is not a suitable place to show that. #barbieheimer #Hindu #OppenheimerFilm." Another said he was opting for a Kannada movie over "Oppenheimer" due to the controversy.

"Everyone was Telling #Oppenheimer Is a cinematic Masterpiece Must Watch. But after knowing that There is a Scene of Bhagavad Gita recitation during Sex. Now I changed My mind I am Going to watch Kannada movie (sic)." "There was a scene in Oppenheimer where a naked girl brings the Bhagvat Gita to Oppenheimer and he reads from it while they're having sex. Very disrespectful scene in my opinion (sic)," another tweet read.

During the film's promotional campaign, Murphy revealed he had read the Bhagavad Gita to prepare for "Oppenheimer" and thought "it was an absolutely beautiful text, very inspiring".

A Universal Pictures project, "Oppenheimer" also stars Robert Downey Jr, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, and Kenneth Branagh.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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