Now I become Death: When Oppenheimer evoked Bhagavad Gita after 1st atomic test | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

‘Now I become Death’: When Oppenheimer evoked Bhagavad Gita after first atomic test

Jul 16, 2023 02:07 PM IST

The film ‘Oppenheimer’ features actor Cillian Murphy as the lead character, based on American theoretical physicist and scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer, the latest work of British-American filmmaker Christopher Nolan, featuring Irish actor Cillian Murphy has a Bhagavad Gita connection. In the biographical thriller, Murphy plays the role of theoretical physicist and scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who is credited as the “father of the atomic bomb.”

Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer in a scene from the film "Oppenheimer," written and directed by Christopher Nolan. (Universal Pictures via AP)
Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer in a scene from the film "Oppenheimer," written and directed by Christopher Nolan. (Universal Pictures via AP)

Oppenheimer served as director of the Los Alamos Laboratory in the United States during World War II, which worked on the ‘Manhattan Project’ aimed at harnessing nuclear energy in 1942. After multiple experiments, in 1945, the project led to the test of the world's first atomic bomb, code-named ‘Trinity,’ at the Trinity site in the New Mexico desert, marking the beginning of the atomic age.

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'Oppenheimer invoked Bhagavad Gita quote after Trinity test'

Oppenheimer is remembered to have been deeply inspired by philosophical texts, including the Bhagavad Gita. In the aftermath of the test, Oppenheimer is famously known to have invoked a quote from the Hindu religious scripture - “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

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The 1965 NBC news documentary ‘The Decision to Drop the Bomb’ featured Oppenheimer, who mentioned his immediate feelings following the successful conduct of the test, which remains a matter of intense debate and controversy to this date. “We knew the world would not be the same…few people laughed…few cried…most people were silent…I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita…Vishnu is trying to persuade the prince that he should do his duty and to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, now ‘I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’,” he remarked in the documentary, adding that he felt that all people present at the test site likely thought that.

Oppenheimer is one of the most anticipated movies of the year and opens in theatres on July 21. As part of promotional interviews of the film, Murphy also said that he read the scripture to prepare himself for the role. “I did read the Bhagavad Gita during preparation, and I thought it was an absolutely beautiful text, very inspiring. I think it was a consolation to him, he kind of needed it…,” he said during an interview with film critic and YouTuber Sucharita Tyagi.

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    Trainee Content Producer at HT Digital. I read about feminism, late modern history, and globalisation of Korean music.

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