A still from Oppenheimer

As a mushroom cloud of controversy threatens to overwhelm Oppenheimer‘s run in India, social media as always offers an insight into public opinion. A sex scene featuring a line from the Bhagavad Gita has caused official outrage with Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur pulling up the Censor Board for passing the scene and demanding it be deleted. The scene that has caused offence shows protagonist Robert Oppenheimer, played by Cillian Murphy, in an intimate moment with Jean Tatlock, played by Florence Pugh; she opens his copy of the Gita and asks him to read from which he does.

The line of scripture used in the scene is one that is famously associated with Robert Oppenheimer: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”  He is believed to have quoted it while watching the atom bomb he created detonate in a test. Exactly why director Christopher Nolan opted to use it in a sex scene in the film is unclear – there seems to be no good reason other than creative licence.

On Twitter, folks are mostly baffled, their outrage perhaps tempered perhaps by the reverence that Christopher Nolan commands among Indian fans. As a tweet points out, the filmmaker behind movies like Inception, Memento and the Dark Knight trilogy is not known for sex scenes. Some tweets called the placement of the Gita quote in a sex scene “awkward and avoidable” and “absolutely unnecessary.” The general consensus is that this Nolan creative choice makes little sense.

See some of the tweets here:

Over the weekend, Uday Mahurkar, Information Commissioner with the government of India shared this press release from the ‘Save Culture Save India Foundation.’

Oppenheimer, which has received glowing reviews from critics and will likely generate Oscar buzz, documents the making of the first nuclear weapons. In addition to Cillian Murphy and Florence Pugh, the stacked cast features Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr and Matt Damon. Oppenheimer opened last Friday and made over Rs 48 crore in its first weekend in Indian cinemas.

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