Cartoonist Mario Miranda: A chronicler of his times

Last Updated: Sun, Dec 11, 2011 13:20 hrs

Mumbai: Like most cartoonists, Mario de Miranda appeared to be a serious, shy, no-nonsense but soft-spoken person to a first-time acquaintance, but gradually warmed up.

Born in 1926, Mario displayed a keen love and interest in sketching and caricatures - using the walls in his own house in Loutolim for practice! Until his horrified mother brought him a book...

Though never formally trained in the fine art of drawing, Mario started making small, cutely illustrated personal postcards for his friends for a token payment - earning him some pocket money in his early days in the 1930s-1940.

While studying at the famed St. Xaviers College in Mumbai, Mario's eyes were trained on competing for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). He went on to study architecture and gave up, before moving to an advertising agency for four years.

The restless artist in him finally persuaded him to take up cartooning as a fulltime vocation, around the time when stalwarts like R.K. Laxman, Bal Thackeray and others were also blooming in the field.

Way back in the 1960s, he got his first major break with the now-defunct The Illustrated Weekly Of India where his sketches and cartoons brought him wide recognition and also a job with the now-defunct Current tabloid.

His creations like the bosomy Miss Nimbupani, Miss Fonseca, Khushwant Singh drinking and others became an instant hit - and are remembered till date.

Around a year later, he finally got a slot in the Sunday Times edition of The Times of India, where Laxman had already become a legend. Later, he contributed to other ToI group publications like Femina, Economic Times and other supplements.

At this time, he bagged a Portuguese scholarship, the F.C. Gulbenkian Scholarship, and he lived in that country for a year, which helped him, in his own words, 'broaden his horizons.'

From there, he went to London and spent five years working for various newspapers and television animation, and his caricatures were featured in internationally reputed magazines like Lilliput, Mad and Punch.

After travelling around many countries, conducting exhibitions or working, he finally decided to make India his home base in the late 1980s.

A former Singapore Airlines senior executive, Winston Desouza, a fellow Goan and a friend of Mario, said that few people had an eye for detail like Mario Miranda, which he implemented in his sketches, caricatures and designs.

'His works were not just cartoons, meant to be viewed, smiled at and forgotten. He told vivid stories of his times in Mumbai, Goa and other parts of the world and produced sheer works of art which can inspire generations,' Desouza, who hosted Mario and another Mumbai humorist, the late Behram Contractor, several times in Mumbai, told IANS.

In south Mumbai's famous Mondegar Cafe, Mario was commissioned to paint murals which adorn the cafe's walls even today. His calendars, year-planners for various publications, private and government organisations, illustrated diaries and books continue to be treasured possessions.

During his long career, Mario penned and illustrated several books, including 'Goa With Love', 'Laugh it Off' and 'Germany in Wintertime'.

Besides, he illustrated books penned by the Goan, Dom Moraes ('A Journey to Goa'), Manohar Malgaonkar ('Inside Goa') and Mario Cabral de Sa ('Legends of Goa'), childrens books authored by Uma Anand like 'Dul-Dul', 'The Magic Clay Horse', 'The Long-tailed Langoor' and 'The Adventures of Pilla the Pup', in Mumbai.

Over his career spanning six decades, Mario conducted solo exhibitions in 22 countries and was decorated with Indian civilian honours like Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.

An avid traveller and music lover, Mario married an artist, Habiba Hyderi. The couple has two sons - Rahul, a hair stylist in New York, and Rishad, a cartoonist based in Goa.

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