The spirit of Goa's famous son Mario Miranda lives on

The land of sand, sun, sea and sorpotel celebrated late great cartoonist Mario Miranda’s 90th birth anniversary yesterday, with a pocketful of chuckles

Intrest in Mario Miranda is certainly not dwindling, going by the steady stream of visitors on Mario’s 90th birth anniversary yesterday, to see an exhibition of 73 of his original pocket cartoons at the Gallery Gitanjali at Fontain has, the Latin area of Panjim, Goa’s capital city. Titled, ‘A Pocketful of Chuckles’, the 73 original works have been selected from pocket cartoons published over a career spanning five decades in various publications. It is the first-ever exhibition to solely focus on his pocket cartoons, though a few of his larger illustrations and drawings are also on display.

At the Mario exhibition in Panjim. Pics/Joseph Zuzarte
At the Mario exhibition in Panjim. Pics/Joseph Zuzarte

Outstanding and magical, were two adjectives one heard about at the exhibition. “Every time I see Mario’s cartoons, they never cease to amaze me with their sense of detail and wit. Not everybody is born with this,” says Ryan Semelhajo, Panjim resident who was at the exhibition yesterday morning. Semelhajo adds with a hint of pride, “He put Goa on the world map with his depiction of Goa and Goan life.”

Ivana Costa, Miriam Koshy-Sukhija and Nerea Menor
Ivana Costa, Miriam Koshy-Sukhija and Nerea Menor

World is perhaps an apt word, given Mario’s global appeal. Nerea Menor, a tourist from Spain who was at the Gallery (I would not know many better ways to spend a Monday morning) stated, “I had heard of and seen his work somewhere in the past, so when I read about this exhibition, I decided to come here,” she said. “When I first started viewing them, I thought he was a bit of a sexist for the way he was depicting women. But after having viewed the entire collection, I’ve changed my mind! I think he’s got a certain sense of humour!” Menor’s sexist sentiment may resonate with some women who may baulk at the overt sexualization of physical attributes. Yet, seen in the overall context of his cartoons, you will notice that this is an intrinsic part of his work, with an unerring eye for detail, plus a common facet of a cartoonist’s work, to over emphasize a physical attribute.

Carlos Tavora, who owns a chain of restaurants in Goa, said, “It’s been very nicely laid out, but I wish there was greater variety. It’s all black and white. I wish it had more colour. It seems to be getting a good response. Mario is arguably Goa’s most famous son.”

Another visitor, Ivana Costa, has a long-running link with Mario, the late cartoonist having dedicated one of his early books to her grandfather. “I just stepped in to see his cartoons because we make and sell ‘azulejos’ (painted wall tiles used for décor) with some of his famous drawings of Goan life. They’re very popular with tourists who buy them for their portrayal of Goan life,” she said.

Gallery owner Miriam Koshy-Sukhija says she wanted to do something special on Mario’s 90th birth anniversary, and, came up with the idea of doing a show of his pocket cartoons. “There have been various exhibitions over the years without any particular focus on one area of his work. This series, I thought, was important because he started his career as a caricaturist and found fame with his pocket cartoons. They are like a slice of life; pieces of history. Through them you can see the making of Mumbai as a cosmopolitan city. They’re nearly anthropological works when seen in retrospective,” Mariam said. Mario’s Goa-based son, Rishaad Miranda, also an illustrator and artist, said of the show, “It is beautifully presented.”

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