Mario Miranda: Sketches of the artist as a young man
The year was 1951. After completing his BA in the history of the English novel, 25-year-old Mario Joao Carlos do Rosario de Britto a Miranda returned from the bustling city of Bombay to a sun-soaked Goa that was blissfully oblivious of the delivery from the Portuguese that lay in store a decade away.
Schooled in Bangalore, Mario shunned the JJ School of Arts after gracing it with his presence for a single day. The now-renowned artist spent a sojourn at his native village of Loutolim, hanging out with friends, organising festivities and parties, and going on various excursions to the cinema and playhouses.
But Goa held more for the artist than mere decadent pursuits. We must now take a detour into the artist&rsqu
Read full story
With his sabbatical in full swing, the idyllic setting and laidback state of affairs in general afforded him the fodder for his diary — which, from January 1-December 31, is packed with humorous vignettes relating to sleepy Loutolim. Contrary to the popular perception about cartoonists, Mario wasn’t quite the reclusive type. He was actively involved in the scrapes and shenanigans (the dynamism and details of which are unfailingly captured by his pen) of his sizeable group of boisterous companions.
“Mario had an amazing visual memory,” explained his close friend Gerard da Cunha, a reputed name in Indian architecture, who launched the book at Mumbai’s first Comic Con. “If he saw you and met you in a cab, five years later he would still remember you.”
Several of the artistic accompaniments to the very succinct diary entries (translated from the Portuguese) are standalone portraits that take jabs at samples of the village populace from the gentry and dregs of society, while others are vivid still lifes, the most vibrant of which are of the artist’s stately mansion and a sombre twilight Good Friday procession on the hills.
The Roman Catholic clergy, the bureaucracy, and the police find themselves irreverently represented within the pages of the book, foreshadowing the cartoonist’s social cartoons. “He’s got it all wrong,” says a cartoon priest peering into Mario’s diary in a cartoon dated June 6, which depicts Mario in the throes of a sinister nightmare. “His ideas are too dangerous,” chimes in another. Then, in the panel below, the artist’s prodigiously nosed cartoon avatar clutches on to the book for dear life while being chased by hatchet- and club-wielding padres who proceed to burn him, and his precious diary, at the stake while they jubilantly proclaim “It’s our only choice so let’s dance to it”.
“Initially Mario was worried about the contents being too embarrassing for some people, and later on the thing just got buried for 60 years,” da Cunha, who unearthed the volume, said.
Da Cunha wanted to publish a book Houses Of Goa about 10 years ago. When he was turned down by major publication houses, he turned to self-publishing. Mario approached him, asking him to publish a book on his drawings but later showed reticence, saying his works weren’t worthy enough. Fortunately for those now held spellbound by the quality of the artist’s bountiful oeuvre, he had a change of heart a few years later. Since then da Cunha has assumed the mantle of Mario’s chronicler, painstakingly cataloguing and putting out the artist’s works.
Apart from portraiture, comic-book lovers should take note that the artist, ever innovative, also prolifically dabbles in page-long sequential panel-based comic gags in his diary. In one hilarious incident in the month of May, there is a musical drama organised by the church which meets with great success. Encouraged, the priests put on a second show the following day only to see low attendance in spite of its “popular demand”. Desperate, tickets go out free and the theatre is consequently filled with drunks and lowlifes who create a ruckus. Mario draws a comparison between the sombre, almost bored, audience of the night before, and the rambunctious mob that flooded the auditorium, noting that “what was going on in the auditorium was far more exciting than what was happening on stage”. Curiously, the diary entry detailing the final preparation for the recital bears an uncanny resemblance to his now instantly recongnisable exuberant, cluttered style.
1951, as a visual document, is packed with warm satire and nostalgia-inducing stylings. If the book meets with success, da Cunha hopes to publish Mario’s black and white diaries from 1946, 1947 and 1950, years when he was in Mumbai. Two years after his fateful return to the state of his birth, Mario would eventually get into the Times Group, from where his reputation as a cartoonist skyrocketed, thanks to the diary which caught the eye of an editor.
While Mario, whose multitudinous microcosms have delighted and continue to delight, saw his work only as drawings, da Cunha (whose Houses Of Goa is now in its third edition) says the artist, whose style evolved continuously, would work on up to four works at a time.
"He would dabble in pen and ink, paints and pointillism, etc. If you had to look at five of Mario's works, you would be looking at the works of five accomplished artists." And not for one moment while poring through 1951 do you doubt that it is an unmistakable prelude to his artistic eminence as we know it today.
Copyright restricted. Under license from www.dnasyndication.com