I’m an ardent fan of Christopher Nolan. I’ve watched every movie of his since Memento. The only movie that I haven’t watched is his first one — Following. I’ve not been able to find it on any platform, otherwise would have watched it as well. Starting from The Dark Knight, I have managed to watch every Nolan movie on the first weekend of its release with Tenet being the only exception since it had been released during the peak period of the COVID pandemic. I was very excited to watch his most recent movie — Oppenheimer. I had booked tickets way back in advance and managed to watch it today.
I wasn’t disappointed. The movie itself is epic. Nolan is a master storyteller and an ace director. The screenplay, direction, and cinematography, all are excellent. Combined with a superb cast of Cillian Murphy (a Nolan regular), Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, and Florence Pugh, among others, the acting is top-notch. I am a huge fan of Hans Zimmer, who has frequently collaborated with Nolan in the past, but even Ludwig Goransson has done an outstanding job with the music and background score.
The first half of the movie was like a flashback to my schooldays, coming across the names of scientists like Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, Pauli, Fermi, etc whose works were part of my science classes. Heisenberg of course is also the pseudonym adopted by Walter White, the protagonist of one of my favourite shows — Breaking Bad. Interestingly, I didn’t know much about Oppenheimer the person before the movie. I just knew that he was the father of the atomic bomb and was highly interested in Hinduism, Sanskrit, and the immortal Bhagwad Gita, the sacred text which I had the fortune to study in my childhood.
Oppenheimer quoted the Gita after the detonation of the bomb during the test, codenamed as Trinity. Moreover, he referred to the Vishwa Roopa as the multiarmed form, which clearly doesn’t do justice to the glorious universal form of Bhagwan Sri Krishna.
The scene is indeed shown in the movie. The 11th chapter of the Gita which contains the two shlokas that Oppenheimer quoted is in my opinion, the most beautiful chapter in the whole of Gita. It’s named the Vishwaroopa Darshana Yoga. It is in this chapter that Bhagwan Sri Krishna shows his universal form — the Vishwa Roopa to Arjuna who is stunned to witness the magnificent form of the Supreme God. He bows down and asks him, who he is, to which Krishna replies saying
kālō.smi lōkakṣayakṛtpravṛddhō lōkānsamāhartumiha pravṛttaḥ.
ṛtē.pi tvāṅ na bhaviṣyanti sarvēyē.vasthitāḥ pratyanīkēṣu yōdhāḥ৷৷
Sri Krishna says he is Time, the destroyer of worlds. Even in the 10th chapter of the Gita, he refers to himself as time among all subduers. If you think deeply, you will understand that time is the ultimate destroyer. All living beings decay with time and ultimately die. Time cannot be stopped. Time keeps running continuously. Time is eternal. The significance of time cannot be overstated. Interestingly, in the old and famous Mahabharata TV series of the 1980s, it is TIME who serves as the narrator with the brilliant voice of Harish Bhimani.
The other shloka that Oppenheimer quoted and although not shown in the movie, is no less significant. This one, however, is a description of the Vishwa Roopa by Sanjaya, the charioteer to the blind king Dhritarashtra. Sanjaya was blessed with divine vision by Bhagwan Veda Vyasa so that he could narrate the events of the Kurukshetra war to Dhritarashtra.
दिवि सूर्यसहस्रस्य भवेद्युगपदुत्थिता ।
यदि भाः सदृशी सा स्याद्भासस्तस्य महात्मनः ॥
divi sūryasahasrasya bhavēdyugapadutthitā.
yadi bhāḥ sadṛśī sā syādbhāsastasya mahātmanaḥ৷৷11.12৷৷
Sanjaya describes the Vishwa Roopa as being brighter than a thousand suns.
Oppenheimer used the above shloka to describe the radiance generated by the explosion of the atomic bomb. Interestingly, one of the songs by my favourite band — Iron Maiden is also titled Brighter Than a Thousand Suns. It’s from their album A Matter of Life and Death and is based on the same theme.
Anyway, coming back to the movie, it’s obviously a must-watch as is every Nolan movie. While some have called it his best work, I wouldn’t go that far. It’s brilliant. But in my opinion, The Dark Knight, Interstellar, Inception, and The Prestige are better. Nevertheless, prepared to be wowed by the master — Christopher Nolan once again!