Audiences in India who went to see the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe noted that while during a scene between T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and M'Baku (Winston Duke) a single word was muted. The word? "Hanuman," censored from M'Baku's hailing of his god when he says, "Glory to Hanuman." Fans who had noticed the unusual muting of the word also noted on Twitter that it wasn't just that the audio was dropped out in the scene, but even in subtitles as well.
The reference was muted out by India's Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and was reportedly removed from the film out of a concern that the reference would "hurt religious sentiments." It turns out that Hanuman isn't just the god M'Baku and his Jabari tribe worship in the film but is also a popular diety in Hinduism. While the diety has many names, Lord Hanuman is the most common for the diety who resembles a monkey. Given Hanuman's appearance the movie appears to simply adopt the name for the Jabari gorilla god.
Considering that the reference was censored in India, it's interesting that Duke has even spoken out about the importance of the Jabari's religion in Black Panther. The actor told Variety that the tribe takes pride and finds strength through its religion.
"They haven't been affected by colonialism and all the narratives that are associated with developing a sense of inferiority and people comparing them to animals," Duke said. "To them, this is just who they pray to, and they find their strength and agency in this religion. So being a bit gorilla-influenced was a sense of pride for them."
As for why the CBFC censored the Hanuman reference, even Indian audiences were puzzled over the decision as the reference in the film is not offensive, though some were disappointed in the choice, noting that it would have been culturally empowering for Indian audiences to hear one of their deities referenced in the landmark film.
"My heart swole when I heard the reference to Hanuman in #BlackPanther," Twitter user @currrydiaries wrote. "It's a shame Indians in India won't be able to hear it because of politics."
Black Panther is now in theaters. It will be followed by Avengers: Infinity War on May 4th, Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6th, Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, the fourth Avengers movie on May 3, 2019, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 5, 2019, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2020.