The thriller chronicles the creation of the atomic bomb by physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, as portrayed by Cillian Murphy, who speaks a line from Hinduism’s sacred Bhagavad Gita text — during a racy sex scene: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
For right-wing Hindu nationalist officials, the purported debasement of this line is a bridge too far.
A “scene in the movie shows a woman makes a man read Bhagwad Geeta aloud while getting over him and doing sexual intercourse”, Uday Mahurkar, India’s information commissioner and a member of the governing Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, tweeted Saturday.
“She is holding Bhagwad Geeta in one hand, and the other hands seems to be adjusting the position of their reproductive organs,” he continued. “The Bhagwad Geeta is one of the most revered scriptures in Hinduism. … We do not know the motivation and logic behind this unnecessary scene.”
Mahurkar worked as a journalist and political analyst before receiving his government appointment in 2020. He claimed the scene is “a direct assault” on the beliefs of “a billion tolerant Hindus”, and that it “amounts to waging war” against the religious population.
The Bhagavad Gita is over 2,000 years old and contains 700 verses. It reportedly takes the form of a dialogue between a warrior-prince named Arjuna and Krishna, an avatar of the god Vishnu, who teaches Arjuna about the dharma — or holy duty — in order for him to forge ahead in battle.
Mahurkar tweeted that Nolan’s inclusion of the line during a sex scene “almost appears to be part of a larger conspiracy by anti-Hindu forces”.
“Those scenes were written deliberately,” Murphy recently told The Sydney Morning Herald. “He knew that those scenes would get the movie the rating that it got. And I think when you see it, it’s so fucking powerful. And they’re not gratuitous. They’re perfect.”
Oppenheimer opened Friday and has already grossed more than $180 million worldwide. The R-rated historical thriller reportedly even drew Indian moviegoers to the theaters as early as 3am on opening day. Fans and critics alike have praised the work as visionary.
Whether Nolan has any intention of altering his film — after curating a resume of mind-bending blockbusters and garnering coveted “final cut” status in Hollywood — remains unlikely. For Mahurkar, the consequences are serious.
“Should you choose to ignore this appeal it would be deemed as a deliberate assault on Indian civilisation,” he tweeted. “Eagerly await needful action. Warm regards.”