“The Baywatch brand is here!”

This is how Ajit Andhare, the COO of Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, introduced Seth Gordon’s Baywatch at a press conference in Mumbai on Wednesday. The action comedy, based on the popular television series of the same name, will be distributed by Viacom 18 in India on June 2. The cast includes Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Priyanka Chopra as the villainous Victoria Leeds.

One only needed to look around to see what Andhare meant. The press conference was at a hotel on Mumbai’s Juhu Beach; cut-outs of Johnson and Chopra were placed on either side of the stage; microphone-bearers in shorts and red t-shirts with “Baywatch” written on them stood guard.

“Everyone knows this series and hence the film too,” Andhare said. “Most of you have had your own little private journey with it,” he added, as the room chuckled.

Baywatch will be released in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Johnson and Efron play lifeguards who go beyond their call of duty and avert a drug trafficking operation. In her first Hollywood film after the television series Quantico, Chopra plays the “feminine and evil” antagonist.

“If you talk about a girl who kicks ass in a way that is legit and believable, then Priyanka is that girl,” declared Johnson through a video message. “She is so good at being bad.”

Will Chopra also be running in slow motion like the other characters?

“It’s six lifeguards against me,” Chopra said. “They run and I walk. Victoria doesn’t run for anyone.”

Baywatch (2017).

Chopra has charmed the American entertainment industry with her role as Alex Parrish in Quantico. A tent-pole movie was the next logical step and a “conscious choice”, she said.

“It is my first movie in Hollywood,” the Bollywood star pointed out at the event. “People didn’t know me very much. One cannot just arrive in America and expect a film to happen to them. Filmmakers have to come to you. After Quantico, I got some amazing offers. Out of all of them, I liked Baywatch the most.”

The reasons are not far to seek: “First, it is a huge global movie. And second, I was a Baywatch fan when I was growing up. And lastly, I get to play a villain in the film. I like the idea that in my first movie there, I’m getting to play something so different. I wanted America to see me in a completely different avatar from Alex Parrish.”

Baywatch might be Chopra’s entry into Hollywood, but as far as Viacom 18 is concerned, the film is as much an Indian product as any homegrown franchise. As the most recognisable face among the cast, Chopra is a natural choice to spearhead the promotions.

“If you look at all three segments: Hollywood, Hindi and regional, Hollywood is where the growth is in India,” Andhare said. “It is the only language market that has recently crossed Rs 1,000 crore gross. From a studio’s point of view, in the last year, a strategy we have adopted to encourage this even more is to localise Hollywood. And that has resulted in a lot of English content being adopted in regional languages.”

The number of audiences watching Hindi dubbed versions of Hollywood films has more than doubled over the last year, Andhare added.

According to the FICCI-Frames on the Indian media and entertainment industries for 2016, nearly 40% of English releases have been dubbed in at least one local language. In 2016, the dubbed versions of The Jungle Book and Captain America: Civil War contributed 58% and 41% respectively of the overall box office collection of Hollywood films in India.

Baywatch (2017).

One of the ways in which Hollywood studios can localise potentially unrelatable subjects is by pushing homegrown talent to the front lines. “We did that with Deepika Padukone in XXX: Return of Xander Cage and now we are doing the same with Priyanka,” Andhare said. “We also use language as a lever. The idea is to make the film one’s own.”

Baywatch will be promoted across media in the country. “Even today, the fact that we are on a beach is not a coincidence,” Andhare said. “This is not an adopted kid, it is our own.”

Several Indian actors have had full-fledged roles as well as guest appearances in Hollywood productions. Irrfan has notched up several key roles in global blockbusters; Anil Kapoor had a small role in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011), as did Amitabh Bachchan in The Great Gatsby (2013).

However, Bollywood actors cannot assume that they will be given the same red-carpet treatment that they are used to back home. “One cannot feel entitled just because one is a star in a particular country,” Chopra pointed out. “I’m okay with walking into a room and introducing myself. We are one-fifth of the world’s population and our representation in world cinema has to be significant. But that is entirely on us. We have to make sure we are good enough when we put ourselves out there. Personally, my responsibility is to ensure that when I enter the set there, I prove to them that as an Indian actor, trained in one of the most prolific film industries of the world, I know my work well.”

India will always have talent to supply, but it’s not quite there when it comes to the demand side of things, Andhare pointed out. “Hollywood is looking to get its collections today from markets in Asia,” he said. “For a 40 billion industry world over, we are less than a two billion market. We are a Mars, not a Jupiter. China is the Jupiter and forms a market of about six billion. If a film does not cut ice in USA or Canada, China might still sustain the box office income. In terms of size and business value, we are far from where should be.”

The reasons range from low footfalls and ticket prices to fewer screens. “What is significant, though, is that there is a phenomenal consumption appetite,” Andhare said. “People are mad about films here and that means there is a huge social capital for films. People across the world are leveraging it more and more.”

Priyanka Chopra on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.