Mário João Carlos do Rosário de Brito Miranda, better known as Mario Miranda, was an eminent Indian cartoonist and painter who portrayed the life and times of Mumbai and Goa through his art. His powerful observational skills and vivid imagination translated onto the canvas, thus creating some memorable characters over the span of his illustrious career. Miranda was born in 1926 in Loutolim, a large village in the South Goan district. The ethos of his roots and the several places that he visited in his lifetime are distinctly present in his artworks.
Miranda’s notable characters exist in human forms such as the secretary Miss Fonseca, the minister Bundaldass, and Bollywood star Rajani Nimbupani as well as in animal forms — the canines, their families, and more. Though he received international fame primarily as a cartoonist, his artistry is not just limited to that. Rather, it would be more apt to call Miranda a visual artist who spoke through his inimitable characters, paintings, and sketches. Even his simple sketches of Bom Jesus Church (The Basilica of Bom Jesus) in Old Goa or a church at night may remind art enthusiasts of arguably the most famous Van Gogh painting, Starry Night.
But what was it that made Miranda’s work stand out from the crowd? It was the memorable characters he created that survive him posthumously. Even years after his death, one can find some of his characters brought alive by people in the Goa Carnival. Arguably Miranda’s most famous character, Miss Fonseca, is an animated creation of the office-going woman. She works in an advertising agency and is surrounded by “creative men”. Miss Fonseca, a woman at the heart of Miranda's creative universe, is modern and is probably viewed differently because she’s a woman rubbing shoulders with men in her workplace. Miranda’s work did receive heavy criticism because of the over-sexualization of his women characters but perhaps, the root of the sexist portrayal of the figure of the woman was Miranda’s commentary on the male gaze or how society viewed progressive women, in general.
May 2, 2016’s Google Doodle by cartoonist Aaron Renier was a tribute to Mario Miranda’s legendary oeuvre celebrating the artist’s 90th birth anniversary. Aaron recognized how perceptive and aware Miranda was of the complex web of social interactions and how that reflected in the characters he created.
"Miranda's most popular style of cartooning was very flat with crisscrossing interactions. That is what I liked most about his work — trying to pick out who knows who, who's watching who, who's annoyed by who, who's enamored by who."
Renowned art critic, Uma Nair wonderfully dissects his works, as well. She traces the inspiration of his character creation in the European avant-garde art movement — Cubism. She says that his "geometric jiggles" coupled with subtle colors helped portray the emotions of the characters, which includes include people from all walks of life interacting with one another.
"Mario’s drawings, like his signature, had a squared-off, serene quality, a frame of high and mischievous intention that suggested aspirations beyond the momentary smile most cartoons are content to induce... he created multitudes that had a collective melody and mood, his backgrounds were never in excess, always a quaint minimalism that endeared and endured...he also pressed towards the foreground an impressionist zeal that had a zing to it."
Miranda’s works extended beyond cartoons and can be found in murals across Goa and other parts of the country. In the 1990s, Rushi Yazdegardi, owner of South Mumbai’s iconic Cafe Mondegar, had asked Miranda to draw murals on two walls of his eatery - one depicting ‘Life in Mumbai’ and the other dedicated to ‘Atmosphere in the Café’ that showcases characters enjoying their meal at the cafe. The cafe wonderfully brings out the ethos of Miranda’s artistry. If you're in Mumbai, its a must-visit.
From the traditionally-clad fisherwomen in a Goan marketplace to polished gentlemen in tuxedos and from urbane modern characters to rustic characters in colourful attires — Miranda’s diverse and unique characters are forever etched in the memories of several art lovers. Like all great artists, his creations are a commentary on his social times. However, Miranda always stressed that he did not consider his art to be political. The Mario Gallery in Goa, maintained by his children, is a wonderful place to visit to get a sense of Goa’s most celebrated artist. Miranda belongs to the select few artists who have kept alive the essence and heritage of vintage Bombay and Goa.
Find out more about Mario Miranda and his works here.
If you enjoyed reading this, here's more from Homegrown:
Why Are R.K. Laxman's Cartoons Still Relevant In Today's India?
The Indian Cartoon Gallery In Bengaluru Brings About Nostalgia & Wonder