‘Goodbye Mario, cartooning will never be the same’
December 12, 2011
By Sudhir Tailang
This year has turned out to be the cruellest of them all. It’s been hunting down the best of our national icons — musicians, singers, painters, actors, writers, sportsmen — and, before finally bidding adieu, has poached one of India’s finest cartoonists. The latest casualty of 2011 is Mario Joao Carlos do Rosario de Britto Miranda. He preferred to be called just Mario Miranda. It hardly matters whether his name was long or short, he will always be remembered for his signature drawing style.
I was familiar with Mario’s cartoons even when I was a kid and too young to understand them. But you didn’t have to be old or a rocket scientist to appreciate and enjoy his drawings. They made me laugh. And that was reason enough to fall in love with his characters. They were all funny.
I never knew that one day I would get the opportunity to share newsprint space with the legendary cartoonist I grew up adoring. Way back in 1982, when I began my career as a cartoonist in Mumbai, my first platform was The Illustrated Weekly Of India.
Mario worked there as a staff cartoonist for years and was now freelancing. I first met him at the Illustrated Weekly office. He used to come to the Times Building regularly to drop off his latest cartoon features. French beard, stylishly gelled hair, and impeccably dressed, Mario looked every inch the star he was.
He invited me for a cup of coffee to his flat at Pilot Bunder in Colaba which he shared with his pretty wife Habiba and a host of other creatures, including tortoises, dogs and parrots.
They say brevity is the soul of wit. Mario was at his wittiest when he wasn’t brief! He never believed in the minimalistic style of an Abu Abraham or a James Thurber. He created a whole world of his own in each of his cartoons and illustrations. Each drawing was populated with scores of characters — men, women, birds, animals — and even inanimate objects had an animated presence.
His drawings were like Jaisalmer stone carvings. Not an inch without activity. Intricate, minute and detailed lines. Almost like miniature paintings with a third dimension.
His Goa sketches captured people and life more vividly than anyone can imagine. When much of Goa has been butchered by the builder mafia and changing lifestyles, perhaps Mario’s drawings will be the only remaining testament of those innocent times.
He created a star cast of characters. Rajni Nimbupani, Balraj Balram, Miss Fonseca, Bundledas, The Boss and many others that became part of our lives. He drew the front-page pocket cartoon with Miss Fonseca and the Boss for the Economic Times for many years.
When he went back home to live in his over-300-year-old ancestral heritage house in Loutolim in Goa, he reduced his cartooning assignments to devote more time to his real passion — just drawing. He was often invited to different countries just to draw. He held exhibitions of these sketches all over the world. Germany, France and Portugal were just a few. Many of these exhibitions were turned into beautifully produced books.
I shot a documentary on Mario in 1998 in this very house in Goa. This is where Shyam Benegal shot Trikal.
Govind Nihlani shot an advertisement for a suiting-shirting range with Mario playing himself.
We have lost a whole generation of cartoonists in the past few years. Shankar, Abu, Ranga, Kutty, Vijayan… the departure of Mario Miranda, one of the last icons and patriarchs of cartooning, has left us almost orphaned. Cartooning will never be the same again. R.I.P. Mario.