‘Oppenheimer’ sex scene involving sacred Hindu text draws flak from some Indians
Christopher Nolan’s newest blockbuster ‘Oppenheimer’ has proved popular with Indian audiences, raking in $1.54 million on the first day alone. It’s considered the biggest box office opening day for a Hollywood film in the country in 2023.
Despite the popularity, the biopic has drawn severe criticism from the Hindu right-wing in India, who have alleged a sex scene in the film showing Robert Oppenheimer reading the Bhagavad Gita to his lover Jean Tatlock has offended religious sentiments.
The film is about a tortured physicist, also the father of the atomic bomb, played by Cillian Murphy. The controversial scene features Oppenheimer reading aloud a few words from the sacred book, which he translates from Sanskrit.
The words are those of Lord Krishna – “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” – a quote the physicist recalled in his real life after the first detonation of the atomic bomb. A member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has called the film an “attack on Hinduism”.
Furious over the presence of the Bhagavad Gita in the middle of the sex scene, Uday Mahurkar, an information commissioner, alleged in an open letter the scene amounted to “a direct assault on religious beliefs” of a number of Hindus.
Many have made demands for the controversial scene to be removed, in addition to calling for action against India’s Central Board of Film Certification. ‘Oppenheimer’ was rated U/A, which necessitates parental guidance for viewers aged below 12.
In another incident, a scene of a Muslim boy and Hindu girl kissing near a temple in the BBC/Netflix TV adaptation of ‘A Suitable Boy’ triggered serious criticism from senior BJP ministers who accused the 2020 series of hurting religious sentiments.