Showcase: The making of an artist

A peek at how Mario Miranda’s trademark style evolved.

December 10, 2011 08:30 pm | Updated 08:30 pm IST

The Life of Mario: 1951. Photo: Special Arrangement

The Life of Mario: 1951. Photo: Special Arrangement

He is one of India’s best known cartoonists and social chroniclers. And now comes a book that shows us how he got there. The Life of Mario: 1951 , published by Architecture Autonomous, is a graphic diary of images and cartoons from Mario Miranda’s life. More than 50 years old, it is a collection of his rib-tickling, tongue-in-cheek art work edited by Gerard Da Cunha. The year 1951 marked a turning point in Mario’s artistic development and in Goa’s own history.

In 1951, Mario De Miranda had just finished university in Mumbai and was on a sabbatical. Born in 1926 in the Portuguese enclave of Daman, Mario belonged to a Goan Roman Catholic family of Saraswat Brahmin origin. His father was the Administrator of Daman and his family a part of the local aristocracy. Consequently, Mario managed to imbibe the best of both Portuguese as well as Goan cultures. This multi-cultural understanding and empathy is clearly manifested in his work.

It is impossible to have read newspapers and magazines in India and not come across examples of Mario’s works. His influences are everywhere, in books, poetry and social commentary. But this book provides us with a peek into his personal life. Included in this volume are scenes from his daily life, which he was in the habit of drawing.

There are gossiping aunties, solemn priests, dances and birthday parties, favourite bars that allowed credit; everything from those years of Mario’s life that would later chart out the path towards his career. These images also show the cartoonist’s trademark style taking shape; the exaggerated line of the bosom and the rosy noses, the strut and bug eyes that would later become his signature style. Flipping through the pages of Mario’s life, you see the artist evolve and find himself within his own work.

All of 25 and free spirited, Mario’s sabbatical in Goa was filled with old friends and cousins out to have fun. They organised clandestine parties and picnics, visited their favourite haunts and hardly had a dull moment. Mario recreates this world, introducing us to hoards of charming and lovable characters.

A keen observer of village politics and human nature, he transforms this book, with his notes, dialogues and vignettes that pepper the images, from a simple chronicle of his life to a richly humorous social satire.

Many have wondered how Mario, with no formal training in art, could draw so spontaneously. Manohar Malgaonkar, whose book Goa was illustrated by Mario, seemed to have hit upon the answer when he said that Mario ‘did not become a cartoonist. He was born a cartoonist.’

The Life of Mario: 1951; edited by Gerard da Cunha, Architecture Autonomous, Rs. 395.

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