The Christopher Nolan film details the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American physicist whose stewardship of the Manhattan Project led to the atomic bomb, the death of tens of thousands and the end of World War II.
India’s Information Commissioner and Save Culture Save India Foundation founder Uday Mahurkar called the sex scene between Murphy, who plays the titular character, and Pugh, who plays his lover Jean Tatlock, a “scathing attack on Hinduism," on social media Saturday.
In "Oppenheimer," Tatlock pauses in the midst of intercourse and asks Oppenheimer to read the Bhagavad Gita. "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds," the scientist reads from the text as the pair resume sex. The quote from one of Hinduism's most sacred scriptures is repeated throughout the film.
"The Bhagwad Geeta is one of the most revered scriptures of Hinduism. Geeta has been the inspiration for countless sanyasis, brahmcharis and legends who live a life of self-control and perform selfless noble deeds," Mahurkar wrote in a lengthy statement. "We do not know the motivation and logic behind this unnecessary scene on life of a scientist."
He continued: "But this is a direct assault on religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus."
Mahurkar called for Nolan to remove the scene from the movie.
'Oppenheimer' review: Christopher Nolan's epic is a crafty blast of nuclear doomsday dread
"We urge, on behalf of 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," he concluded. "Should you choose to ignore this appeal it would be deemed as a deliberate assault on Indian civilisation."
Murphy told Indian film critic Sucharita Tyagi ahead of the "Oppenheimer" premiere that he read the Bhagavad Gita in preparation for filming.
"I thought it was an absolutely beautiful text, very inspiring," he said. "I think it was a consolation to (Oppenheimer), he kind of needed it and it provided him a lot of consolation, all his life."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Oppenheimer' sex scene sparks backlash over use of sacred Hindu text