Nidhi Gulati and Shivi
HUMOUR WITH MARIO MIRANDA by By Pervin Saket. Illustrations by Devika Oza AdiDev Press, Learning to Be Series, 2023, 20 pp., INR 499.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

Humour with Mario Miranda is a picture book thick in board page format. The text focuses on Mario’s growing up years and the themes in his art. Mario was fascinated by the everyday characters he encountered, life and its traits, families and cityscapes. Like other texts from the Learning to Be series, this book is a biography in fragments.
The pages are designed with well-justified proportions of text size, text space and picture space. The text by Pervin Saket is evocative. It attempts to capture the spirit of an artist who looked at common life around him with the eyes of a hawk as it watches over its brood, sharp yet compassionate. It shows how childhood carries the possibility of creativity in absurdity. Saket translates his visual wit into easy, flowing verse. The text does justice to the quirky, absurd, witty art that Mario made. The rhyme used in the text also uplifts the mood. Each line, while narrating, also fits the rhythmic aspect.
About the art that Mario created. Mario Miranda though remembered as a social cartoonist, was more than an illustrator or a cartoonist. His ink-and-pen, charcoal, and colour sketches on social life, characters and cities are enigmatic. How common people form relationships with their environments—cities especially—forms the core of his art. The oddness, absurdity, frailty and foibles that Mario sees in these relationships swerve and dislodge what is deemed normal. We can laugh at his wit as it lurks in the exaggerations. Some of these are the egg-shaped chin, the long ears, the bulging eyes, and the pointy nose in characters; the always late buses, always overcrowded buses on the roads; the overfilled cafes in cities; the fandom frenzy around starlets and corrupt politicians. At the same time, we can feel sympathy for the local characters as they live their city life. He shows us the capacity for gentleness and tolerance. Mario’s art is a meditation on life around the world.
Illustrating a book about one of the most quirky artists of our times is daunting and tricky. It is here that the book disappoints. The illustrator chooses vibrant hues all over, failing the interplay of shades and texture. The illustrations also fail to depict the mood of the text. Even as Mario experiences failures in his life, the colour palette remains as bright as it could be. We see only three of Mario’s artworks in the book. None of these bring the spirit or the oeuvre of Mario’s work. For instance, his artwork on the temples and churches in Goa, autobiographical sketches, and sketches of a bus full of people rapt with social satire could have added to the narration of the text. Including Mario’s illustrations on more pages would have brought delight to children. They would have left an indelible mark on their minds on how to look at society. The bliss that pervades his characters—the secretary Ms. Fonseca, the actress Ms. Rajani Nimboopani, and Minister Bundaldass—evades this book. This book missed an opportunity to bring to children Mario’s art, where nothing in everyday life was ever unexpected, or inconvenient, or unusual!