Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” has come under fire in India over a sex scene that references one of Hinduism’s most sacred texts.
The scene: “Oppenheimer,” which was released worldwide on Friday, features a sex scene between Cillian Murphy’s titular character — renowned theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, also known as the “father of the atomic bomb” — and Florence Pugh’s Jean Tatlock that involves the Bhagavad Gita. The scene pauses with Tatlock picking up the scripture and asking Oppenheimer to read from it.
“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” says Oppenheimer before they resume having sex. The quote, which is repeated throughout the film, was quoted by the real Oppenheimer after the explosion of the first atomic bomb.
The backlash: The scene did not sit well with some viewers in India, particularly members of right-wing groups, according to reports. In a statement addressing Nolan, Uday Mahurkar, India’s information commissioner and member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, described the scene as “a direct assault on religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus” and compared it to “waging a war on the Hindu community.”
Some viewers, including those in the diaspora, appeared to share the sentiment. Others slammed the Indian Censor Board for allowing the “blasphemous” content.
“I’m calling for a boycott of the movie Oppenheimer,” wrote
one commenter. “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.”
“Censor board has chopped the abusive words in Oppenheimer movie but it has allowed the scene where the main lead actor is having sex while reading ‘Bhagavad Gita.’ BJP’s Censor board has no problem with blasphemy of Hinduism, remember they allowed such nonsense in Adipurush too,” another said
“This movie is a blasphemy porn on Hinduism,” one person tweeted
. “If the real Oppenheimer watches this movie, he’ll surely kill himself.”
“Can’t we boycott a movie which is insulting our religion? Why are we so comfortable with it? Why are we happy that our holy book is mentioned in this movie? This is really very disgusting!” said
Box office performance: Despite the backlash, India is among the few countries where “Oppenheimer” beat “Barbie” on opening weekend, reportedly due to a large Nolan fanbase. The aesthetically polar films both surpassed expectations, with “Oppenheimer” making $174.2 million and “Barbie” $337 million globally.
While Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” has drawn flak in India, Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” is facing its own controversy over a scene that depicts China’s claims in the disputed South China Sea, which got the film banned in Vietnam.