Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur has sought an explanation from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) over an “objectionable” scene in the film Oppenheimer that was released in India last Thursday.
The intimate scene was censored by the film’s India distributor to blur the cover page of the Bhagavad Gita, and shots featuring nudity were blurred or zoomed in. The pre-emptive censorship notwithstanding, the intimate scene features J. Robert Oppenheimer, who oversaw the invention of the atom bomb, reading aloud from the book in bed.
Oppenheimer’s affinity for the Gita was mentioned favourably in the days leading up to the film’s release by commenters; however, the way it ended up being depicted in the film — even in a censored form — upset some viewers.
It is learnt that, taking note of the matter, Mr. Thakur has instructed that accountability with respect to the issue of certificate be fixed. The filmmakers may also be asked to remove the impugned scene. The CBFC only ordered one fleeting instance of a swear word to be cut from the film on top of the changes that the distributor had already made for the India release.
An earlier 2019 draft of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023, introduced in Parliament last week, would have allowed the Union government to order a review of the film, but following opposition from the film industry and in the face of a Supreme Court order that had struck down a similar clause in the past, this provision was removed before introduction of the Bill in Parliament.
Earlier on Sunday, Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar had expressed displeasure and raised objection over the scene, seeking an urgent investigation by the I&B Ministry into the matter.
In a statement to news agency ANI, Mr. Mahurkar had said that the depiction of the Bhagavad Gita in the scene was an insult to the sacred book. “...this portrayal undermines our values and heritage, and it is deeply offensive to the Hindu community,” he had said.
“A Cabinet Minister being ‘upset’ is not a legal ground for interference with the functioning of a regulatory body such as the CBFC,” Apar Gupta, a founder of the Internet Freedom Foundation said on Twitter on Monday evening. Such “personalised behaviour”, Mr. Gupta said, was not consistent with the rule of law.