On May 2, Mario Miranda would have turned 90. There’s a party planned. Some of his favourite musicians — the Cotta family, who sing old Portuguese songs; and fado (Portuguese sentimental songs) singer and friend Sonia Shirsat — will hold a free concert in Goa.
Mario at 22
The Mario Gallery will release an illustrated diary of the cartoonist, dated to 1949 and make it available for sale online.
“When Mario was young, he would draw everywhere — on the walls, on tables,” says architect Gerard Da Cunha, who manages the merchandising of Mario’s work after the artist’s death in 2011.
Pics Courtesy/ The MARIO GALLERY
“His mother gave him a diary to draw in and he continued [to maintain] that habit throughout his life.”
Mario was born in Daman to Goan Catholic parents of Goud Saraswat Brahmin origin.
This one charts the course of his life in 1949, when he was 22, studying Arts at Mumbai’s St Xavier’s College and took a trip to Goa.
“Mario was not really interested in studying,” says 61-year-old Gerard, who also runs a blog on MarioDeMiranda.com.
“In Mumbai, he would watch three movies a day and study in between,” he adds about the artist who was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan in 2012.
It’s his trips to Goa that bring the diary alive. “His story-telling skills are developing [during the time the diary was made]; he is freer with his compositions. He describes village elections in which one party offers free beer and another offers chicken xacuti. The one offering beer wins,” says Gerard.
The diary charts his daily life in illustrations — the people he meets on a boat ride; all the friends he goes out with for dinner are drawn in thumbnail. This is also the time when he was gaining work as an artist — he was asked to decorate the dance hall for a medical college ball and the floats that carried holy statues, like that of the Lady of Lourdes.
Gerard’s association with Mario started in 2003 when they collaborated on a book called Inside Goa. He then worked on the book Mario De Miranda in 2008 (The Life Of Mario 1949; Rs 395). When the artist was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, he entrusted the legacy of his work to Gerard so that it could support his family.
“Mario was unlike the stereotypical temperamental artist,” he says. “He was always smiling, always in a good mood. Never verbose,” says Gerard. “He was listening, observing, getting others to talk.” The only time he would speak, was through his illustrations.
As loved as Mario is, there is a sexualisation of women in his work — as a band performs, the cello player’s hands wander up the singer’s bosom; bust lines are exaggerated and men ogle at women in ways that would be offensive in real life.
Gerard is aware of this. “There was a different kind of political correctness 30 years ago. There is one illustration which shows a woman in a burqa walking one way and another in a mini skirt walking the other — both looking at each other as if to say, ‘To each his own’,” he says.
“Humour always looks for a hook — like a sardarji or a woman driver. One should not read too much into it. We try not to use those pictures, though.”
Mario was one of the last in the age of great newspaper cartooning when every daily had a distinctive illustrated voice. He is relevant still, according to Gerard, because a good laugh is always useful. “We lose something every day; but we gain something too,” he says. “Someone came to the gallery [in Porvorim, Goa] the other day because she is doing a PhD on Mario...”