At 85, cartoonist Mario Miranda exits life’s canvas

December 11th, 2011 - 7:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Loutolim (Goa), Dec 11 (IANS) The bronzed, sinewy toddy tapper will never slither down a coconut palm with ease. Nor will the buxom, cleavage showing, big hipped fisherwoman hunch over her fish basket with slapstick charm. Master Indian illustrator Mario Miranda, who created both the cartoon characters, died in his sleep in his Goan village Sunday after a prolonged illness at the age of 85.

The artist breathed his last at his 300-year-old ancestral home in the quiet village of Loutolim, 35 km from capital Panaji. He is survived by his wife Habiba and sons Rahul and Rishad.

“He had been ailing for long and he passed away peacefully in his sleep,” Habiba told IANS.

Minutes after the villagers learned of his death, the bells of the local church pealed in honour of the deceased soul as is the custom in rural Goa.

His mortal remains will be cremated as per his wishes after a mass Monday morning, and not buried according to Catholic tradition, family sources said.

Mario Joao Carlos do Rosario de Britto Miranda was the man who first creatively transported the languid imagery of Goa, its people, its quaint market places, roof top homes and crowded taverns to the world.

He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1988 and the Padma Bhushan in 2002 - two of India’s highest civilian honours - for his exemplary work.

Condoling his death, Chief Minister Digambar Kamat told IANS that the artist’s death was a setback to Goa.

“Miranda was one of the greatest artists the century ever produced. In all his artistic work, he had always portrayed Goan character to the world. He held several exhibitions in almost all continents wherein he displayed his talents and laid emphasis on Indian culture and particularly Goan ethos.”

Leading Indian artist Shuvaprasanna, met Mario Miranda for the first time at a group show in Mumbai 1969 where the two exhibited together, said he was Mario’s fan.

“During my one man show at Jahangir Art Gallery in 1971, I invited him. I met him personally and said I was one of his fans. He came to my show and sat for a long time. He was a calm and bright man - with beautiful manners and few words,” Shuvaprasanna told IANS from Kolkata.

Mario, who was born in Daman in 1926, studied at the St Xavier’s college, Mumbai. After flirting with the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) preparations and dabbling in architectural studies, he finally acknowledged his calling by placing his pencil stub on paper.

Mario’s first big break came in the form of the Illustrated Weekly of India, a once popular magazine, before sketching for other publications including The Afternoon, Current, Femina and ‘MAD’, one of the most popular satirical illustrated magazines in the world.

Vivek Menezes, an art aficionado based in Goa who has been following Mario Miranda’s work as a child, recalls his first tryst with the cartoonist’s work.

“He knew my parents well from the 60s. My own lifetime has been marked by indelible associations with his art. I vividly recall his delightful children’s illustrations for a book of rhymes that was literally one of the first books I read,” Vivek recalls.

While Mario’s cartoons and characters like Miss Nimboo Pani and Bundaldass are what made him popular, it was his illustrations of people, landscapes and places which catapulted him to the league of creative geniuses.

Mario’s pictorial renditions of his travelogues across the major cities of the world stand out as masterly impressions even today.

Ashwin Tombat, former editor of the newspaper Herald, said that while Mario as a political cartoonist in a newspaper was “all right”, his illustrations were superb.

“His illustrations which were impeccable. And his travelogues and the beautiful impressions of the cities he travelled made him legendary,” he said.

Noted curator Sushma Bahl, author of the new book “5000 Years of Indian Art”, found his “cartoons simple, communicative and acceptable”.

“His response to the society and things around him every topical. He was a friendly, warm and decent artist who belonged to the old world,” Bahl told IANS.

Mario’s trademark sketches of the Goan lifestyles, especially proponents of traditional occupations like the toddy tapper, the fisherwoman and personal lifestyles of suited gentlemen and parasol-toting genteel ladies are legendary for their reflection of reality and fine nuances of everyday life in Goa.

“No more wiry toddy tappers in full regalia climbing coconuts (coconut trees) nor fat fisherfolk,” says Josh Arya Pereira, a fan, reacting to the maestro’s death.

According to Menezes, Mario was the greatest ambassadors for Goa, its art and culture who left behind the “best, widest and most unforgettable body of images ever created of the state and its people”.

He said, “I don’t think we lost Mario. His work is like a banyan tree, and will remain standing for generations even if the main trunk has been lost. His legacy is intact. History will not forget Mario de Miranda.”

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