Tuesday, Jan 25, 2022

'Miss Fonesca, Miss Nimbupani And I Say Goodbye, Mario'

'Miss Fonesca, Miss Nimbupani And I Say Goodbye, Mario'
'Miss Fonesca, Miss Nimbupani And I Say Goodbye, Mario'

Mario João Carlos do Rosario de Brit de Miranda, aka Mario Miranda (1926-2011). RIP.

 As if the year hadn't been cruel enough already, Mario de Miranda died in his sleep in his ancestral house in the early hours of Sunday, December 11. He was cremated yesterday, in accordance with his wishes, at his village in Loutolim.

Vivek Menezes in the Mint:

Almost until the very end, he was still in full creative flow: turning out inimitable, zesty drawings to burgeon a genuinely monumental legacy that began with a saucy can-can scene commissioned by Dosoo Karaka for The Current in 1953. Still in his 20s, Mario, had quickly become established as one of India’s best illustrators. His images then remained ubiquitous across the Indian media right into the 21st century.

His cartoons of top-heavy secretaries, flirtatious sardarjis and bumbling bureaucrats charmed readers across India; and creations such as Miss Nimbupani and Miss Fonseca appeared on a regular basis in Femina, The Economic Times and The Illustrated Weekly of India.

Sidharth Bhatia in the Asian Age:

In Filmfare, he created instantly recognisable types who regaled us every fortnight — the coiffed hero Balraj Balram, the curvaceous heroine Miss Rajni Nimbupani, not to forget the cad Bulbul Brandy. Mario had an eye for the absurd, and along with his sketches, the names were spot on. I recall one series, called Wedding Bells, wherein the couples from different regions had priceless monikers: Petrification Pereira of Bombay marrying Gertude, daughter of Purefaction Pinto of Goa; Thomas Martyr (looking woebegone) marrying a formidable Padmini in Kumbakoli and Major Mooshwal Singh marrying Bulbul, daughter of Colonel Curry in Dehradun. Of course, only a Bombaywalla would fully understand the wedding of Darius Screwala with Bapsy, daughter of Framroze Waysidepetrols-tationwalla.

Hemant Morparia in the Mumbai Mirror:

...Among my earliest memories of him, are the illustrations he did for entire school text books: the state-prescribed Bal Bharatis.

Every school-year a new set arrived, and we all excitedly rushed through the pages to see his art work. We, the students, were regularly ordered  to copy these as home work, for note-books, posters and the like, by unimaginative school teachers.

Which sensible chap was it who commissioned him for illustrating school texts will perhaps remain unknown, but many, many grown-ups today will be eternally grateful to this person. Mario's elegant illustrations, inculcated in us, who were at a 'vaccinable' age then, a sense of visual aesthetics and colour. (To imagine how much worse state-backed stuff can get otherwise, one needs to just take a look at various  aesthetic horrors  dotting the city: public monuments)...

Mario's dip-pen ran tirelessly, exhausting ink-bottles, and filling each pixel on any page. It threatened to fill a room and it even did that. Café Mondegar is witness to his furious energy. It even filled an atrium with a giant mural in the first ever Indian mall, Crossroads. Mario attacked blank space like it was a mortal enemy, hatching, cross-hatching the tiniest details of rock or brick or tile. All this did slow him down, as he once confessed to me, wanting to do it less. But Mario's ADHD (Attention to Detail, Hyperactive Disorder)-afflicted pen remained so, and no Ritalin was going to help.

Sudhir Tailang in the Deccan Chronicle:

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.

Bachi Karkaria in the Times of India:

What can I say about Mario? That he was one of India's most distinctive cartoonists? That he was arguably an even better serious artist in the detail and spirit with which he captured the places he lived in and visited? That he, along with Frank Simoes, gave Goa to the world? That he was to the magazines of The Times of India what Laxman was to the daily paper? And, dare I say it, that Laxman was the Lata Mangeshkar who subtly ensured that the pedestal was not for sharing?

I can say all that. But most of all I'd like to say that Mario was my friend. Several others will say it, and it would be an insult to the open-spirited man that he was to try and claim a superior relationship

Pritish Nandy in the Economic Times:

He worked on his cartoon strips mostly at home in Colaba and was awful with deadlines. This was largely because every afternoon, or almost, he would go for lunch or a long walk and would end up in a movie hall, all by himself. 

There was no movie he didn't see. It was the idea of slipping into a dark theatre and watching the moving picture that excited him.

He didn't give a damn whether the movie was good or bad. Fame didn't excite Mario much. Nor consistency. During my years as editor of The Illustrated Weekly, and also Filmfare, he possibly drew more strips and published more drawings than he ever did before. Or so he claimed.

He called me a slave driver and would always complain that cartoonists were not meant to be regular and stick to deadlines. Over the years, I found him less and less interested in drawing cartoons and more excited about his illustrated travelogues. 

Riddhi Doshi in the Hindustan Times:

Miranda came to Mumbai when he was 20 years old, in 1945, and spent 50 years in this city, cartooning, sketching and drawing. He lived in an apartment in Colaba...

At hotel Paradise in Colaba, he drew a sketch of Adam and Eve for the owners Jimmy and Mehru Kadkhodai. “He would come here often with Behram Contractor (pen name Busy Bee), a well-known journalist and have his favourite chicken sandwich. One he made a work for us – Adam and Eve and said, ‘this one is for the paradise’. Even if I sell Paradise, I will not sell this work.”

Doshi also quotes Mario as saying:

"Where there is humour I will do a cartoon. But when I do structures, I don't do cartoons… I enjoy drawing much more than cartooning.”

Outlook editor in chief Vinod Mehta, a close friend, agrees, calling him the best illustrator and caricaturist in the country:


His friend Mario Cabral e Sa recalls in the Times of India:

He studied in Bangalore then came to (St) Xavier's (College), Mumbai. When he started cartooning and came to Mumbai, the guy who launched him was Polly. Policarp Vaz, receptionist, who would keep changing jobs. Whenever Polly encountered foreigners, he would tell them, I have a brother who is handicapped, who can't speak, who doesn't have limbs... if you buy some of his picture postcards, you can help him. And so he launched Mario in the market.

In a 2009 review-profile, Venkitesh Ramakrishnan in Frontline quoted Manohar Malgonkar:

Mario’s Goan Roman Catholic family of Konkan Saraswat Brahmin origin lived first in Daman and later in Goa, both Portuguese colonies, and was part of the local aristocracy and senior officialdom. Naturally, Mario’s childhood had multi-cultural, essentially Eurasian, influences. His trajectory as a professional strengthened these multi-cultural influences as he moved from Goa to Bangalore to Bombay (now Mumbai) in India and later to Lisbon and London in Europe.

Vinod Mehta recorded in an essay some years back:

Two years ago I found myself closeted with Mario in a foreign land. The country was rich, the wine heady and the natives friendly. Not surprisingly, we had a terrific time.
During those 16 days I had a good, long look at Mario and I am ashamed to report that I discovered only one solitary eccentricity. I noticed that when we were in a pub or a theatre or a restaurant, he would suddenly disappear. I also noticed that just before he left he surreptitiously pocketed a beer coaster or a menu card. Initially I suspected Mario to be a latent kleptomaniac or one of those souvenir hunters, but that appeared too simplistic an explanation. My journalistic antenna suggested something decidedly more serious.

So, the next time he withdrew I followed him (we were then at a French restaurant) and found him near the kitchen, hand cupped, eyes frenetic, pen busy. He was taking “notes”.

The notes were a few hasty lines which to my untutored eye meant very little. For Mario, however, they represented homework, the germ of a future drawing. He told me that that was the way he worked...

E.P. Unny adds in the Indian Express:

To call Mario a cartoonist would be like seeing no more than the elegant living room he entertained you from, through a long warm Goan evening. “Take a break and be my guest,” he said. “Come and sketch the whole of this house. Should take a week or so if I keep a close eye on you to make sure you don’t run off to do the day’s cartoon.”

The 17th-century Portuguese mansion, very much part of the Mario-lore, is a grand heritage home in Loutalim, in Goa’s Salcette district, with many unused rooms, hand-done period furniture, complete with a banquet hall. Mario’s drawings estimated conservatively at 50,000 add up to matching grandeur and proclaim his status as India’s peerless comic artist.

There are stories about his heritage house, featured in the Houses of Goa museum:

“Our family originally came to Loutolim from the neighbouring village of Raçain about 320 years ago. I know that this house was there before we came here so it’s probably much older” 

His wife Habiba explains:

“Mario’s family were Sardessais two hundred and fifty years ago. They had a commitment to the Shantadurga temple at Fatorpa and they kept their promise to her even after conversion. The commitment was that when the harvest came in the first bag of the rice and a hundred coconuts or the oil from a hundred coconuts was sent to the temple. When I got married I was told that I had to do that but although we had a lot of land circumstances forced us to sell and now the new owners meet the commitment. But I do believe that Shantadurga keeps a special eye on our house.”

On Mario's own website, Manohar Mulgaonkar adds:

The Mirandas of Loutolim have lived in the same small area on the north bank of the Zuari River for more than five hundred years. They were the Sardesais or revenue collectors of a small village called Raciem when Goa was ruled by the Bijapur Sultans. They were Hindus and Brahmins by caste. When, in the mid 16th century, the Salcette district was conquered by the Portuguese, the family converted to Roman Catholic Christianity and took on their new name, Miranda. The house is in Loutolim, in the district of Salcette. Loutolim is small, sleepy and redolent of the flavour of a much older Goa. The center and heart of Loutolim is the church, and within a dog's bark of it, is this house...

The house was also featured in Shyam Benegal's Trikal:

"Mario was a quintessential Goan - laid back and talented, who did not want to show off. His family was genteel - full of wonderful people," Benegal told IANS in a rare moment of rumination.

"On a visit to Goa, I went to Mario`s ancestral home in Lotulim village. It was a beautiful home - and I thought what is the film that I should be making about the mansion. It was a 300-year old family home dating back to the 17th century - one of the oldest mansions of Goa

"Trikal" turned out to be a loose biography of Mario`s family -- and the home

"Mario`s mother lived at the family`s Lotulim home and Mario lived in Mumbai (then Bombay). Some aspects of Mario`s family came out in the movie. The home, one of the oldest Christian villas in Lotulim has a wonderful history

"I made Trikal 27 years ago. It was inspired by a part of his (Mario`s) family history. One of his ancestors had captured a rebel Rane - who had rebelled against the Portuguese. When his head was presented to the Portuguese governor, he (Mario`s ancestor) found out it was the wrong Rane...

The cartoonist Manjul in DNA sums it up:

Mario was the one and only ‘celebrity’ Indian cartoonist. He endorsed a reputed clothing brand in TV & print commercials in the 1980s. In 1979, Basu Chatterjee, director of the Hindi film Baaton Baaton Mein, based the looks of the hero, a reel-life cartoonist played by Amol Palekar, on Mario. One can see his house in Shyam Benegal’s film Trikaal. Benegal shot the film in and around Mario’s house in Goa, a heritage building known for its Portuguese past and architecture. And no one can forget the iconic visual of a Sardarji sitting inside a bulb with books, which has graced Khushwant Singh’s column in almost every Indian newspaper for many years. That was a Mario creation. In Mumbai, people like me visit Café Mondegar just to see the mural drawn by Mario.

Trivia: As old Doordarshan watchers would remember, Mario also appeared in the original Mile Sur Mera Tumhara:


Rajan Parrikar (yes, the same Rajan Parrikar) shares some memories on his photoblog

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