Home World Europe The sex scene in Oppenheimer scandalized India

The sex scene in Oppenheimer scandalized India

The sex scene in Oppenheimer scandalized India

Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster, Oppenheimer, has sparked outrage among India’s Hindu right, with some calling for a boycott and demanding the removal of a sex scene in which the main character utters a famous line from the religion’s scriptures.

The film tells the story of the atomic bomb through the eyes of its creator, Robert Oppenheimer, and the scene in question shows actor Cillian Murphy, who plays the title role, having sex with Florence Pugh, who plays his lover, Jean Tatlock.

Pugh paused during intercourse, picked up a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s most sacred scriptures, and asked Murphy to read from it, CNN reported.

“Now I have become Death, destroyer of worlds,” says Oppenheimer’s character as the two resume intercourse.

The scene has sparked outrage among some right-wing groups, with a politician from India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) calling the film a “disturbing attack on Hinduism” and accusing it of being “part of a larger conspiracy by anti-Hindu forces”.

In a statement on Saturday, India’s Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar said the scene was a “direct attack on the religious beliefs of one billion tolerant Hindus”, likening it to “waging war against the Hindu community”.

He added: “We believe that if you remove this scene and do what is necessary to win the hearts of the Hindus, it will help establish you as a sensitive human being and win you the friendship of billions of kind people.”

The film was well received by most quarters in India, which conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, with critics giving it rave reviews and people flocking to cinemas to watch it.

According to local figures, “Oppenheimer” grossed more than $3 million in its opening weekend domestically, more than director Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated “Barbie,” which opened on the same day and grossed just over $1 million.

The Film Board of India gave Oppenheimer a U/A rating, which is reserved for films that contain mild adult themes and can be watched by children under 12 with parental supervision. So far, there are no bans on the film in any of the states and union territories of the country.

“Change in Tone”

This is not the first time that the Hindu right has taken offense at films, TV shows or advertisements for their portrayal of Hinduism. Some of them have been boycotted or even taken off the air after protests by conservative and radical groups.

In 2020, Netflix received significant backlash in India over a scene in the series “A Suitable Boy” that depicted a Hindu woman and a Muslim kissing in a Hindu temple. That same year, Indian jewelry brand Tanishq pulled an ad featuring an interfaith couple after online criticism.

Meanwhile, analysts and film critics say there is a shift in tone in some Indian films, with nationalist and Islamophobic narratives gaining support from many people in India as well as the BJP.

Last year director Vivek Agnihotri’s box office hit The Kashmir Files, based on the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus fleeing violent Islamic militants in the 1990s, polarized India, with some hailing the film as “heartbreaking” and “real “, while others criticized it as Islamophobic and inaccurate.

Similarly, the release this year of the film The Kerala Story, about a Hindu girl who is tricked into joining ISIS, angered critics who called it a propaganda film that demonized Muslims.

Before “Oppenheimer” premiered, Murphy says he read the Bhagavad Gita in preparation.

“I thought it was an absolutely wonderful text, very inspiring,” he says in an interview with Indian film critic Sucharita Tyagi. “I think it was a comfort to him [Oppenheimer], he kind of needed her, and she gave him a lot of comfort, throughout his life.”

Oppenheimer, who is known as the “father” of the atomic bomb, was drawn to Hinduism and its teachings. He is a polyglot and a scholar, studying several languages, including Sanskrit.

Two decades after the Trinity bomb test – the world’s first nuclear explosion – took place on July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer told interviewers: “We know the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few cried, but most were silent.”

He said he remembered a verse from the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

This line is used in the film many times, including during the sex scene.

Image credit: Universal Pictures


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