The following press release was issued by American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD) and HinduPACT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28. 2023
We are deeply offended by a scene in the Christopher Nolan’s Hollywood movie Oppenheimer that shows the eponymous character having sex while reading out verses from The Bhagavad Gita, one of the most revered and sacred Hindu scriptures. As representatives of one of the oldest and the largest American Hindu organizations, we strongly urge the producers of the film and the distributor, Universal Pictures to remove the shloka from the movie.
A shloka is a sacred verse from Hindu scriptures that carries profound spiritual significance to the Hindus. It is not merely a piece of background music to be used for dramatic effect in a movie; rather, it holds immense religious sanctity and is meant to be recited with utmost respect and reverence. By using the shloka from the Bhagavad Gita without the appropriate religious context, the producers of “Oppenheimer” are trivializing and commodifying a central aspect of Hindu spirituality. This not only shows a lack of understanding of the cultural and religious sensitivities of the Hindu community but also amounts to cultural appropriation, which is deeply disrespectful and offensive.
Commenting on the inappropriate use of shloka, Ajay Shah, Convenor of the World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) and Convenor of AHAD and HinduPACT said:
“Hollywood must resist the urge to use Hindu scriptures as props in their movies. In 1999, Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut,” used a shloka from the Bhagavad Gita during an orgy scene. After our protest, this scene was removed from most locations. We would have hoped that after almost a quarter century after “Eyes Wide Shut,” Hollywood producers are more enlightened, more aware of religious and cultural sensitivities and more attuned to the global audience they serve. Evidently, they remain as tone-deaf as they were twenty-five years ago, and perhaps as prejudicial towards Hindus as the colonialists who ruled India for a thousand years. We call up on the producers and United Pictures to remove the offending scene immediately. “
(News item about the “Eyes Wide Shut” protest is available here)
As consumers and supporters of the entertainment industry, we call on the producers of “Oppenheimer” to uphold the principles of cultural sensitivity and religious respect by promptly removing the shloka from the movie. AHAD is launching an online campaign to advocate for the removal of the scene.