Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ sparks social media controversy over sex scene featuring Sanskrit scripture

Some social media users called for the boycott of Oppenheimer, which features the titular character having sex as he reads out verses from an ancient Sanskrit scripture claimed to be from the Bhagavad Gita

July 23, 2023 03:51 pm | Updated July 25, 2023 05:46 pm IST

A still from ‘Oppenheimer’

A still from ‘Oppenheimer’ | Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

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 the timeless tradition of lives being transformed by revered Geeta, to do all that is needed to uphold the dignity of their revered book and remove this scene from your film across the 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 social media users called for the boycott of Oppenheimer.

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.

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