Bhagavad Gita quote in Oppenheimer sex scene sparks controversy in India

Florence Pugh (left) stars as Jean Tatlock in Oppenheimer, opposite Cillian Murphy. Credit: Universal Pictures/AP

By Lily Ford, ITV News Multimedia Producer

A nude scene in Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer hit has been branded a "scathing attack on Hinduism" following its reference to a sacred religious text.

And a sex scene in the film has also sparked controversy in the Middle East, prompting the addition of a CGI black dress onto Florence Pugh's character while she is naked from the waist up.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist known as the 'father' of the atomic bomb whose life is depicted in the Hollywood biopic, was famously quoted reading a verse from the millennia-old scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, after creating the weapon.

"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds," he said, quoting Hindu's preserver God Vishnu in the Sanskrit work.

In real life, Oppenheimer recited the text ahead of an atomic bomb test in the New Mexico desert, before his creation was deployed to kill hundreds of thousands in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

In the film, Cillian Murphy's Oppenheimer recreates the moment when he is asked to read the verse aloud by Jean Tatlock, played by Pugh, during a sex scene.

Nationalist group Save Culture Save India (SCSI) Foundation has demanded the scene be removed, calling for those involved to be "severely punished".

Its founder, Uday Mahurkar, wrote an open letter to Nolan on Twitter: "You have great admiration in India for your art of filmmaking.

"We urge, on behalf of (a) 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 world.

Oppenheimer and Tatlock were said to have had an affair. Credit: Universal Pictures/AP

"Should you choose to ignore this appeal it would be deemed as a deliberate assault on Indian civilisation."

In response to his country's uproar, Indian filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma appeared to downplay the severity of the situation, tweeting to followers: "Irony is that an American nuclear scientist Oppenheimer read the BhagwadGeeta which I doubt even 0.0000001 % of Indians read".

Others countered Mr Mahurkar's outrage, replying to his letter that it is "just art."

"The Gita was not intended for puritanical minds but for open ones to explore the nature of the Self... I think the scene was perfect as Oppenheimer was clearly on that path," one social media user wrote.

The controversy has sparked debate across India, where the country's censors have not halted the film - but the topic continues to lead on national broadcasts.

Oppenheimer has grossed at least 600 million rupees (around £5.7 million) since opening in India on Friday, according to Warner Bros Discovery.

Later in the film, Murphy and Pugh's characters are depicted sitting across from each other, both naked, and Pugh is shown unclothed from the waist up for a few minutes.

In both India and parts of the Middle East, a black dress has been edited onto Pugh using CGI special effects for the scene, eliciting cries of censorship from film fans in other countries.

Neither Nolan or Universal Pictures have responded to the backlash.

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