Jawad Iqbal Jawad Iqbal

India’s sinister attempt to censor Oppenheimer

Narendra Modi (Credit: Getty images)

Anurag Thakur, India’s information and broadcasting minister, is hopping mad about a sex scene in Christopher Nolan’s new blockbuster film Oppenheimer. The offending segment shows Cillian Murphy, who plays the American physicist Robert Oppenheimer, reciting a famous line from the sacred Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita while making love. ‘I am become death, destroyer of worlds,’ he declares, the same words he reportedly used after the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945.

The angry minister, turned film critic, wants the scene cut from the movie because he deems it disrespectful to Hindus and their faith. The Gita is revered among Hindus and its teachings are passed down through the generations, largely through word of mouth.

This is all part and parcel of the growing assault on free speech and basic democratic rights in India

Thakur is far from alone in his censorship demands. Hashtags such as #BoycottOppenheimer and #RespectHinduCulture quickly began trending on social media.

Uday Mahurkar, a senior official at the government’s Central Information Commission, wrote an open letter on Twitter complaining to the film’s director, Christopher Nolan. The letter, entitled ‘Oppenheimer’s disturbing attack on Hinduism’, accused the film of ‘a direct assault on religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus…and waging a war on the Hindu community’. He demanded the film’s director censor his own work. 

A sense of perspective is clearly not one of Mahurkar’s strong points. All in all, it amounts to a ridiculously overblown reaction to one minor scene in a film that is three hours long. It is also a blatant and sinister attempt by India’s ruling politicians to impose film censorship under the guise of religious offence for which they have appointed themselves both judge and jury.

This is despite all signs pointing to the fact that Indian film fans are rushing to see the film, apparently oblivious to any offence, religious or otherwise.

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Written by
Jawad Iqbal

Jawad Iqbal is a broadcaster and ex-television news executive. Jawad is a former Visiting Senior Fellow in the Institute of Global Affairs at the LSE

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