Friday, February 23, 2024

My hands were full in Brazil, but my aspirations didn’t die: Jeniffer Piccinato

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Brazilian model and actress Jeniffer Piccinato gets candid with The Pioneer over an exclusive chat, tracing us back to her Brazilian roots, playing the role of geologist in Ram Setu, working with Akshay Kumar, and much more.

Shikha Duggal

In the public consciousness, Jeniffer Piccinato is known for her stunning physique, good looks, and her acting skills. Nevertheless, the fact that she has survived in the industry coming from Brazil for as long as she has is proof of her professionalism and audience-pulling power!

When we first put together the questions for this interview, we added about two very relevant questions for her – tracing us back to her Brazilian roots and giving a head-on to Akshay Kumar on the sets of Ram Setu.

She first answered, “Born and raised in a very small town, it’s going to be interesting for the readers to know where I hail from. My family had no idea about taking such a gigantic step in my life and landing in India all the way from Brazil. At the age of nine, my interests were in modeling, and took it up professionally in my hometown. My parents agreed for me to pursue any ‘artistic’ career only if I graduate. Post that, I started to train myself then and there. In my country, the beauty pageant world is very competitive! However, I didn’t give up and tend to do well there at the fashion shows too by stealing the show. Simultaneously, was a helping hand to my mum who runs a beauty salon in Brazil. You see, my hands were full but my aspirations didn’t die. I am not just a graduate, I am a certified fashion designer, hairstylist, make-up artist and an actress today.”

She revealed that while growing up she was rather exposed to Hollywood films than Bollywood. She said, “I have my extended family in Europe too. Could have grabbed an opportunity in European films too, prominently, Italy. I had nothing to do with an Asian country! I was called to India for the first time in anticipation of doing a television commercial for the brand Pantene, couldn’t say no to it. An advertisement also was a challenge to me back then. They informed me that the advertisement will be showcased during festivities, and my logistics rang the bell in terms of ‘promotion’. But I had no idea about what we do on Diwali (she laughs). The same year, the Barbie in red saree that went viral in the country — was me. Pantene gave me a substantial platform and I was the next international model in the running. Was signed by ten countries one by one, it was huge for me.”

For the past ten years or more, she’s living in a suitcase and got exposed to multiple cultures. “After my stint in New York, my film journey began. The recent hit, Ram Setu will always remain definite for me because the role of a geologist wasn’t based on my appearance or sex appeal. They saw potential in me! Noticed another side to me while auditioning which was – my natural hair texture is curly but I kept straightening them while this film realised me to use it as my USP. I got a chance to be the real Jeniffer in Ram Setu! My freckles were showing, it was even more liberating as a woman to me on the sets that the crew isn’t discriminating against the actress.”

The role of a geologist didn’t come easy to her. She had to undergo so much investigation about the instruments they use too. She narrated, “A geologist uses a specific machine and I had no elms about it. I was spending most of the time in a laboratory made in the film city which was nothing less than a real one! I took a break from my fitness regime and stopped going outdoors for a while. The majority of the scenes are shot around the sea, as much as I wanted to swim I couldn’t because I was totally immersed in my character. But then came up a scene where I had to do the swimming bit too because I was drowning. Divers were around me for safety protocols, yet there we were freezing to death in the middle of the sea because it was winter. I was given the option to refuse too, nonetheless, I didn’t because I wanted to enjoy it. It was all for that close-up shot! So, from childhood, had a nerdy side to me and I got to play that on-screen which was interesting to me too.”

Not everyone chooses to be a geologist in the mainstream, it was evident her research had to be doubled. She added, “The AMS machine technique was something I was supposed to specialise in. Learned about the era of Lord Ram, and so many surprising facts came up to me. The proper and best approach was with the real geologist; although the groundwork was so exhausting but the creativity in it was giving me a kick with a human approach to my character.”

Sharing her closeness with Akshay Kumar, she said, “He had no tantrums to throw: always on time despite being a biggie in our industry. He’s razor-sharp while delivering his stunts, he amazed me. A well-known actor was doing action scenes in front of me, what better could I have witnessed on the sets? He hardly asks for a retake, that’s another revelation. I got to know he’s such a busy actor in the industry, that we had to finish our sequences in a limited time frame without skipping our dialogues. Parallelly, his other projects were going on too and he was least distracted.”

She has seen almost all of this country, she accepts more than her own country and bursts into laughter. “A ship was built in a studio location, submarine scenes were shot on a green screen. Felt nothing less than Hollywood! Water stunts were scary, it was deep, especially in the open sea with a speed boat having Akshay, Jacqueline, Satyadev, and me.”

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