A scene from the hit film Oppenheimer, in which a passage from the Bhagavad-Gita, one of the fundamental texts of Hinduism, is quoted, angers Hindu nationalists in India who demand its deletion. The highly anticipated Christopher Nolan film hit Indian screens on Friday. It traces the life of Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), an American physicist who helped usher the world into the atomic age. In a scene showing Oppenheimer, played by the Irishman Cilian Murphy, with his lover Jean Tatlock, played by Florence Pugh, this one opens a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita and asks the scientist to read a passage from it.
Oppenheimer then reads these words: “Now I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds”, a phrase that came to mind for the scientist, according to his memories, during the first American test of an A-bomb on July 16, 1945 in the desert of New Mexico, marking the beginning of the atomic age. Written in Sanskrit between the 5th and 2nd centuries BC, the poem is one of the fundamental texts of Hinduism.
"This is a direct attack on the religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus," Uday Mahurkar, a senior official with the government's Central Information Commission, said in a letter to Christopher Nolan. "It amounts to launching a war against the Hindu community," he added in his missive, of which he posted a copy on Twitter, asking the director to delete the scene. On the social network, calls for a boycott are flourishing.
For the conservative Hindu organization Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which also demanded that the scene be cut, the film constitutes an attempt to "attack" Hindu society. "The perpetrators should apologize to the Hindu community around the world whose feelings have been seriously hurt," spokesman Vinod Bansal said. Hinduism is the majority in India alongside significant religious minorities, notably Muslim. Human rights activists in India are concerned about growing religious intolerance in the world's most populous country since Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.