A sex scene in the Hollywood blockbuster “Oppenheimer” featuring a line from a Hindu holy scripture sparked online outrage in India on Monday, with an official calling it a “scathing attack”.
Critics say religious intolerance has been growing in the world’s most populous country since the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.
The biographical drama about US physicist Robert Oppenheimer — played by actor Cillian Murphy — opened in India on Friday to positive reviews, reportedly raking in more than $3 million at the box office in two days.
One scene shows Oppenheimer with his lover Jean Tatlock, played by Florence Pugh, in which she opens a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu religious text, and asks him to read from it.
Murphy reads the line, “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”, the quote which Oppenheimer reportedly recalled when the first nuclear bomb was detonated.
“This is a direct assault on religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus,” Uday Mahurkar, a senior official at the government’s Central Information Commission, wrote to the film’s director, Christopher Nolan.
“It amounts to waging a war on the Hindu community,” Mahurkar said in the letter, a copy of which he posted on Twitter, and urged Nolan cut the scene.
Hashtags such as #BoycottOppenheimer and #RespectHinduCulture have been trending on Twitter.
Harris Sultan, an author, said Hindus were “left angry and perplexed at the blatant disrespect”.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a prominent right-wing Hindu organisation, said the movie was an attempt to “launch an attack” on Hindu society and demanded the scene be cut.
“The makers should apologise to the Hindu community all over the world whose sentiments have been badly hurt,” spokesman Vinod Bansal told AFP.
Hindus are the majority in India but minorities, including Muslims, form a significant part of the population.