Calls to boycott ‘Oppenheimer’ come over sex scene featuring Cillian Murphy reading sacred Hindu text

Sex and sacred text sparked outraged calls to boycott “Oppenheimer” for its alleged “scathing attack on Hinduism.”

Director Christopher Nolan isn’t known for controversy or gratuitous content in his films. Similarly, audiences who headed to a biopic on the life of the man known as the father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, likely wouldn’t expect there to be a lengthy sex scene.

However, reality smashed expectations over the weekend and left many Hindus appalled at the incorporation of the Bhagavad Gita in the midst of an intimate act between the lead character, portrayed by Cillian Murphy, and his lover psychiatrist Jean Tatlock, played by Florence Pugh.

“It has come to our notice that the movie Oppenheimer contains a scene which make a scathing attack on Hinduism,” wrote India’s Information Commissioner Uday Mahurkar in an open letter to Nolan posted on social media Saturday.

Suggesting he himself hadn’t seen the film, the founder of the Save Culture Save India Foundation cited reports as he described, “a scene in the movie shows a woman makes a man read Bhagwad Geeta aloud while getting over him and doing sexual intercourse. She is holding Bhagwed Geeta in one hand, and the other hands seems to be adjusting the position of their reproductive organs.”

Though censored for audiences in India to conceal the nudity, the scene featured the characters engaged in intercourse, with a respite showing Tatlock examining Oppenheimer books before bringing a Sanskrit copy of the Bhagavad Gita back to bed which she had him read from while appearing to resume their intimacy.

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” the character recited.

Mahurkar wondered at the caution displayed around offending the sensibilities of Muslims and asked “Why should not the same courtesy be also extended to Hindus?”

The censorship employed in Indian theaters was not enough to quell the outrage as the commissioner went on to “urge, on behalf of billion Hindus and timeless tradition of lives being transformed by revered Geeta, to do all that is needed to uphold dignity of their revered book and remove this scene from your film across the world” or “it would be deemed as a deliberate assault on Indian civilisation.”

Others shared the sentiment.

Prior to the film’s release, Nolan had spoken with Insider about the inclusion of the scene and said, “When you look at Oppenheimer’s life and you look at his story, that aspect of his life, the aspect of his sexuality, his way with women, the charm he exuded, it’s an essential part of his story.”

“It felt very important to understand their relationship,” he said of Tatlock and Oppenheimer, “and to really see inside it and understand what made it tick without being coy or allusive about it — but to try to be intimate, to try and be in there with him and fully understand the relationship that was so important to him.”

As for the sexual content in his film, the director expressed, “Any time you’re challenging yourself to work in areas you haven’t worked in before, you should be appropriately nervous and appropriately careful and planned and prepared.”

Warner Brothers, The Daily Mail noted, had previously edited out lines from the Bhagavad Gita that were quoted during a sex scene in Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut.”

As for Murphy, during a press junket for the film, he told critic Sucharita Tyagi that he had read the text to prepare for the role and said, “I thought it was an absolutely beautiful text, very inspiring.”

The actor added, “I think it was a consolation to [Oppenheimer], he kind of needed it and it provided him a lot of consolation, all his life.”

Kevin Haggerty

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