Did Julius Oppenheimer quote from the Bhagavad Gita while having sex? And if he did, is that an ‘insult’ to Hindus? And if it indeed is, should the Central Board of Film Certification, which has passed the film as fit to be screened, cut those scenes after it is in the theatres? These are the vexed questions on which some trolls and a few persons in high positions have given their considered views which can be summed up simply as Yes, yes and yes.
Among these personages is Anurag Thakur, minister for information and broadcasting, under whom the CBFC functions. The minister surely knows that once the censor, as the CBFC is called, has permitted the screening of the films, he should stay away. Instead, he is threatening this organisation with stringent action. He hasn’t explained, however, what exact action he will take ― perhaps he will have the ‘traitors’ shot? Whatever the case is, he is out of order here.
While the trolls and Thakur say this scene is anti-Hindu, they have not explained the reasons. What exactly is it that they find objectionable? Is it the fact of sex, that Oppenheimer and his lover Jean Tatlock are in bed and soon proceed to make love? Which, by the way, has not been shown. Is it that he reads from the Gita? Or that he actually picks up the book while they are in bed, which is somehow sacrilegious?
Because, that would raise further questions – is the Gita (or indeed Hinduism) anti-sex? Is the act of sex dirty and impure? Or is the conjunction of the two somehow anti-Hinduism?
This, then, is the problem. All these self-proclaimed saviours of Hinduism are unclear about what they are fighting against. Just loudly proclaiming ‘insult’ is vague and, indeed, self-defeating. Laughable, really. To any sensible person, it shows a perverse mind at work, which finds anything to do with sex filthy.
This is not just a problem with those who have objected to Oppenhemier. The producers have already blacked out scenes in the film which are remotely nude and ‘sexual’ to secure a release here. Our own censors have added that ridiculous disclaimer about smoking. Plus, our government is actively considering censoring films and shows on OTT platforms of ‘vulgar’ content. Why this prudishness, at a time when everyone has access to all kinds of stuff on the Internet? Unless there is a plan to censor that, too.
That Oppenheimer had studied Sanskrit and had read the Gita deeply is well documented. One would have thought that the Hindutva types, who never resist an opportunity to proclaim from the rooftops that India (i.e., Hindu India) was superior to all other religions, would have been overjoyed at this. Add to that the fact that he invented the atom bomb (though it was first made in India several centuries ago), a destructive device, would have fed right into their masculinist and militaristic fantasies. They would have then rushed to see the film in large numbers. Instead, they are carping about the use of the Gita in a sex scene?
Those interested in good cinema are heading to theatres to see this film and coming back impressed — at the scale, the story and most of all, the lessons the film holds. That the father of the most destructive weapon created till then, which killed lakhs of Japanese, is filled with doubt about his invention. Nuclear devices were supposed to create peace for all time — they didn’t, as we have seen in the war-filled decades since then.
Oppenheimer’s self-doubts turned him into an object of suspicion in the American security establishment. He was suspected of being a communist, the worst crime in their eyes in the years just before the Cold War began — the FBI kept tabs on him and his top security Q clearance as the man working on the bomb was revoked in 1954; the decision was nullified only in 2022, long after he had died.
The so-called insult has not caused any comment from sensible viewers, but only a handful of trolls who seem to have nothing better to do have got hot and bothered. A bit of advice to Thakur et al ― go and see the film, take in the spectacle that Christopher Nolan has created, see how well everyone has acted, and think deeply about the message of the film, instead of trying to burnish your Hindutva credentials by threatening a statutory body like the CBFC. It just makes you look absurd and silly.