Through his art, Mario Miranda, who passed away in Goa on December 11, taught us to laugh at our faults and shortcomings. He could capture the spirit of a man very well, using expressions and typical behaviour. He would draw cartoons about the lives of taxi drivers, bus drivers, secretaries working in office, and families from different religions, and make us smile. I am sure he would have loved to draw something on Vidya Balan’s recent film, The Dirty Picture.
He was gifted. He used to draw illustrations and cartoons of his teachers in school. He had no formal education in art when he started out as an illustrator in one of the leading newspapers in Mumbai. His keen observation of people made his art lively and exuberated warmth. He could capture moments from daily life and freeze them in his art like no other.
Not just his cartoons and illustrations but his landscapes of Goa -- cathedrals, crossroads, the people of Goa -- and also of his travels to Israel and Greece, were beautiful. He was a prolific artist; he would draw one cartoon, or maybe more, every day.
As a person, Mario was very generous; he never had money on his mind. He was simple and genuine; one could call him a son of the soil. He was content with his life and was an extremely hospitable person. Whenever I was in Goa, he would always insist I visit him in his ancestral house and have lunch or dinner with him.
He returned to Goa about 12 years ago, after he retired from the newspaper he used to work with. He lived in a very small apartment in Colaba in Mumbai, but his house in Goa was palatial. He loved his house and his hometown. He has done a lot of work there to promote and conserve heritage, and promote Christian and Goan art.
I first met Mario in 1970-1971 and my friendship with him goes back 40 years. I had just graduated from college and started my art gallery (Cymroza at Breach Candy). Mario was a great patron of art and visited the gallery often. We have had three solo exhibitions of his illustrations and cartoons in the gallery. The last two – World of Mario Miranda and World of Mario Miranda Bombay, Mumbai – along with a book release, were in January-February 2009.
I met him last September at a party in Goa. He was frail and had to walk with a stick. He hated that. However, like always, there was a continuous light-hearted banter between him and his wife Habiba, an artist who has been his constant companion. This has been a bad year for the art fraternity, which has lost great artists like Jehangir Sabavala, MF Husain and now Mario.
—As told to Riddhi Doshi
(Pheroza Godrej, owner of Cymroza art gallery, was a close friend of Mario Miranda)