"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.” These are Mario Miranda’s words printed in his book The World of Mario Miranda, which was released during his last two major exhibitions in Mumbai in January-February 2009 titled The World of Mario Miranda and The World of Mario Miranda, Bombay, Mumbai.
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 and studied at the St.Xaviers College. Close friend and his classmate George Menezes, a well-known writer says, “Mario and I sat on the same bench and he would keep a diary, a picture diary in which he would draw everything he saw around him.” This diary also got him his first job in the city with a leading newspaper. Menezes adds, “I recall that he once asked me ‘Do you draw?’ and I replied, ‘I can only draw water from the wall in my ancestral home in Goa’. He laughed and said you would be a good humorist and he was right.”
Another close friend, theatre actor, social worker and author Gerson Da Cunha says, “He was a quiet person and wouldn’t talk much. His keen observations about the world were translated in his works. He would often come to my ad agency when I worked as a copy writer. He would describe an image to me and would want a smart one-liner to go along with it, which he could use in his cartoons.”
His cartoons, illustrations were often based on Mumbai. 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.”
A few meters away, the cartoons and caricatures at Cafe Mondegar is also designed by Miranda. Hushang Yazdegardi, managing partner of the cafe says, “My dad (Rushi) asked Mario to design these cartoons and sketches for us that adorn the walls. One wall is dedicated to the life of Mumbai and another to the atmosphere in the cafe. Miranda made all these drawings on canvas, which were later rendered on the wall with the help of students of JJ School of Art.” He adds, “Every time I think of making some changes in the place, I always think of approaching Miranda to do something different like he did back then. He will be sorely missed.”
Bakhtawar Shroff, co-owner of the Cymroza art gallery in Breach Candy says, “As a child Miranda would paint on his walls and his mom gave him a drawing book. His love affair with art started then.” She adds, “Miranda was the most humble person I came across. Even if he was dead tired and if you approached to talk to him, he would talk to you and never dismiss you. We have lost a great artist and a greater human being.”