Priyanka Chopra’s ‘Baywatch’ battles ‘Wonder Woman’ this week
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New Delhi: Baywatch, Priyanka Chopra’s Hollywood debut film, may have arrived in some theatres around the world last week but the action comedy hits the actor’s home ground on Friday. The hype surrounding Chopra’s maiden international venture may be high but the Seth Gordon-directed film based on the famous 1990s television show has to contend with another equally awaited female-oriented offering in DC’s superhero film Wonder Woman, which has a lot going for it too. DC is a division of the American entertainment company and film studio Warner Bros. Pictures.
For starters, the Patty Jenkins-directed film is the first summer superhero film directed by a woman, and Jenkins is the first woman to helm a superhero film with a female protagonist. Wonder Woman is also the first live action theatrical film based on the titular character, an Amazon princess who lives with superwomen of her kind on the island of Themyscira which is attacked forcing her to go to Britain during the First World War. The feature film follows her first live action theatrical appearance in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
“Wonder Woman is a very strong character, being a founding member of the Justice League and also a literal goddess with infinite power. Superhero films, in general, feature mainly men smashing things without any real sense of purpose, so the arrival of Wonder Woman is a much needed feminist angle,” said film critic Mihir Fadnavis. “We need more superhero films that depict women as strong and intelligent people instead of scantily clad ‘hot chicks,’ the dumb damsel in distress or the love interest of superheroes who have to be saved again and again.”
What also works for Wonder Woman is the rave reviews it’s been receiving, a first for the DC franchise since the disappointment of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad last year. In contrast, Baywatch has received savage reviews in the US.
“Baywatch has always been some kind of a television stepchild,” said film critic Raja Sen, referring to the explicit content of the series. “Even the trailer of the film showed that it is unashamedly that, juvenile and silly but also kind of having fun with it. Plus, a lot of the humour is extremely raunchy so I wonder how much of it would be curtailed (for India).”
Not that distributors Viacom18 Motion Pictures have skimped in putting Baywatch out there for India. The film will see a dubbed release in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, the last of which Chopra has lent her own voice to.
Apart from digital innovations and engagements, there is an on-ground Slo-Mo campaign for multiplexes, where fans will be able to participate in a virtual run with Baywatch stars by posing alongside posters and standees. The slow motion run is an iconic memory associated with the TV show.
“Baywatch brings together two global entertainers, Priyanka who is India’s darling and now a global icon and Dwayne Johnson who is by far the most popular Hollywood actor in India,” said Rudrarup Datta, senior vice-president–marketing, Viacom18 Motion Pictures. “The film is a really funny comedy with some mind-blowing action added to it and we strongly feel it will find resonance with Indian audiences both in metros as well as tier-II cities.”
It may not be entirely smooth sailing though. Chopra’s Hollywood debut has received unimpressive reviews abroad, besides minting meagre box office collections of $31 million. Independent trade analyst Sumit Kadal emphasized that there is a large section of the audience in India that goes by foreign reviews especially for a film that is not a popular brand in the country. He predicted a Rs20-25 crore lifetime business for Wonder Woman in India with about 1,000-1,100 screens and about Rs8-10 crore for Baywatch with 700-800 screens.
“It is important to note that even Deepika Padukone’s presence couldn’t help the collections of xXx: Return of Xander Cage though she had a substantial role in the film,” Kadal said.