Sex scene in ‘Oppenheimer’ causes outrage among India’s Hindu nationalists

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer
File image of Cillian Murphy in Oppenhemier

The Hindu right in India is up in arms over Christopher Nolan’s most recent blockbuster film, “Oppenheimer,” with some calling for a boycott and others demanding the removal of a sex scene in which the title character quotes a well-known passage from the religion’s holy text.

The scene in question shows actor Cillian Murphy, who plays the major part, having intercourse with actress Florence Pugh, who plays his love interest Jean Tatlock, in a movie that tells the story of the atomic bomb through the eyes of its inventor, Robert Oppenheimer.

During their sexual encounter, Pugh pauses, pulls up a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s most revered texts, and requests that Murphy read aloud.

The character of Oppenheimer exclaims, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” as they start up again.

Right-wing organisations have expressed fury over the scene, with a lawmaker from the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India accusing the movie of being a “disturbing attack on Hinduism” and a “part of a larger conspiracy by anti-Hindu forces.”

India’s information commissioner, Uday Mahurkar, compared the incident to “waging a war on the Hindu community” in a statement released on Saturday, calling the incident “a direct assault on religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus.”

“We believe that if you remove this scene and do the necessary to win Hindus’ hearts, it will go a long way towards establishing your credentials as a sensitised human being and grant you the friendship of billions of kind people,” he continued.

In India, which conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, the movie has gotten positive reviews from reviewers and large audiences who have flocked to theatres to witness it.

According to local sources, “Oppenheimer” made more than $3 million during its first weekend in the nation, surpassing the highly anticipated “Barbie,” directed by Greta Gerwig, which was released on the same day and made just over $1 million.

“Oppenheimer” received a U/A rating from India’s film board, which is only given to films with moderately adult themes that younger viewers can view under their parents’ supervision. The movie has not yet been banned in any of the nation’s states or union territories.