Mario de Miranda: A Tribute

[When we are talking about graphics and animations and comics and cartoons, it would be inapt to forget the world-renowned cartoonists of India. If not all, Mario Miranda, who breathed his last in his ancestral home at Loutolim, Goa, in the early hours of Sunday, 11th December, definitely needs to be mentioned. Here’s a tribute to the maestro,by Hrishikesh Bharali ]

Among the myriad faces in the Indian cartoonists scene, there features a Goan named Mario Miranda whose vignettes of Goan life on canvas in his trademark style captured the imaginations of the people for over two decades and put India on the world map. His lack of formal training in the nuances of cartoon never proved to be a constraint in his way up the ladder. Although, comparisons with his more illustrious contemporary R.K. Laxman were rife, Mario Miranda was successful in carving his own niche in the world of cartoon. As his long-time friend Khushwant Singh puts it in his inimitable style, “Comparisons with RK Laxman were inevitable. Everyone agreed that there was no cartoonist in the world to match Laxman. He agreed with the assessment and exuded an aura of self-esteem. Mario, on the other hand, had very little self-esteem and exuded an aura of modesty.”

Khushwant Singh further delineates the structural shift in their bailiwick that reflected in their doodles.”Laxman’s cartoons made political social statements. Mario simply depicted Bombay’s upper class or the common folk of his native Goa. His cartoons depicted farmers clad in nothing more than langotis (loin cloth) and their women folk in bars sipping local Feni. He also made cartoons of fisher folk, fish markets, cathedrals and the Goan country-side. Both contributed handsomely to the spectacular increase in the circulation of The Illustrated Weekly of India.”

Ironically, he went on to work with R.K. Laxman during his stint with Times of India.

Miranda was born on May 2, 1926 in Daman and did his schooling at St Joseph’s high school, Bangalore and did his BA in history at St Xavier’s college, Mumbai. Mario displayed a keen interest in sketching and caricaturing from an early age. He used the walls of his own house in Loutolim as a canvas for his creations, to the utter dismay of his mother, who finally brought him a blank book. He even started getting into trouble at school, for sketching Catholic priests!

He started his career as a cartoonist for the Times of India Group in 1953 and later moved into illustration and fine art. He rose to fame for his creations such as Miss Nimbupani and Miss Fonseca which appeared on a regular basis in Femina, Economic Times, and The Illustrated Weekly of India..

Miranda was offered the Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian Scholarship, which enabled him to travel to and stay a year in Portugal and this time in Portugal, according to Miranda, helped him to broaden his horizons. After a year in Portugal, Miranda travelled to London, England and was to spend five years there, learning as well as doing jobs for newspapers and even worked in television animation, at Independent Television.

Miranda’s cartoons were featured in the magazines Lilliput, Mad (once), and Punch (twice). This supplemented his finances, and enabled him to travel around Europe, interacting with other cartoonists, gaining considerable knowledge and exposure. This led to his meeting of Sir Ronald Searle, whom Miranda considered his mentor.

Besides cartooning, Mario’s murals continue to adorn the walls of south Mumbai’s famous Mondegar Café. His calendars, year-planners for various publications, private and governmentorganisations, illustrated diaries and books continue to be treasured possessions.

He has illustrated numerous books including Inside Goa by Manohar Malgonkar, A family in Goa and The Open Eyes by Dom Moraes, children’s 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.

He has also penned several books, including Goa with Love, A little World of Humor, Sketch book, Germany in Wintertime, Impression of Paris and Mario de Miranda.

In his long career span of six decades, Mario has held solo exhibitions in over 22 countries, including the United States, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Singapore, France, Yugoslavia, and Portugal. He was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1988 and the Padma Bhushan in 2002. The All India Cartoonists’ Association, Bangalore, honoured him with a lifetime achievement award. The King of Spain, Juan Carlos, conferred on Mario the highest civilian honour of ‘la Cruz de Isabel la Catolica’ which was presented to him on 11 Nov,2009 at his family home in Loutulim by Don Miguel Nieto Sandoval and on 29th Dec,2009 Portugal. He was also decorated with the title of “Comendador da Ordem de InfanteD.Henrique”, a Portuguese National Order of Knighthood.

He will be best remembered for the ubiquitous man-in-the-bulb logo of Khushwant Singh in which he is shown scribbling on a sheet of paper with a pile of books on one side and a bottle of whisky on the other.” Ever since, whenever my articles appear, editors use the bulb logo designed by Mario Miranda over forty years ago. Believe it or not, on many occasions I have received letters simply addressed to: Man-in-the-bulb, New Delhi!”, adds Khushwant Singh.

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

In the wee hours of Sunday, 11th of December, Mario Miranda left for his heavenly abode at the age of 85 leaving behind a rich contribution to the Indian Cartoon depository.

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