Mario Joao Carlos do Rosario de Britto a Miranda is none other than the ‘Mario’ who is one of the most respected cartoonists in the country. His recognisable signature ‘Mario’ is one that’s not easy to forget since the day they started appearing 50 years ago. This famous cartoonist never had any formal training or education in art. He began his artistic journey with the Times of India group as a cartoonist in 1953. He then broadened his horizons and began working with illustrations and fine art. This journey led him to take an avid interest in illustrating books and has been part of the process in numerous books like Inside Goa by Manohar Malgonkar. He has garnered international attention for his work and has been invited to numerous countries like Japan, USA, Germany to sketch and exhibit his works. This has led him to win many accolades both nationally and internationally. This includes the title of a Padma Bhushan that he was awarded in the year 2003.
Mario describes himself as a ‘social cartoonist’. He never made his art to make a point but purely because he enjoyed drawing. One of the main banes of being a cartoonist is the fact that your subjects are based on real life subjects who might take offence to the work The trick is to find the balance between humour and teasing. Mario found this balance with ease but even he has been in the centre of controversies. He never really worried himself with the most controversial subjects, Indian politicians and even if he did depict them it wasn’t one targeted figure but a general satire on the topic.
Mario would draw anything that would get his attention, this ranged from random children on the streets to his beloved animals. The subject matter never seemed to concern him, his sole aim was to draw and that meant anything that his creative mind could fathom. This is the reason why this humourist would engage himself even by illustrating rather sombre structures like temples and graveyards. He never really accepted his identity as a cartoonist as much as he embraced one of an illustrator.
Mr Mario ascribes his success to the fact that he can adapt his style based on the kind of drawing he makes. He is primarily a humourist but he is not scared of discovering the other hidden emotions in things.
He was an animal lover and this is clearly seen in the regular features of animals in his cartoons. His love for dogs is translated in their regular feature in the comics that surround social themes. Sometimes he even made cameo appearances in his own comics and this is a true testament of how invested he was in his art.
Mario began drawing long before he could understand what he was doing. He was a born artists and didn’t even need a pen or paper, he would just make do with anything he had to the disdain of his poor mother. Little did she know that the same ‘naughty boy’ who would ruin the walls of the house with his drawings would go on to become a luminary in the field.
He was always a creative boy and his notebook contained hidden treasures and was a beautiful pictorial representation of his life. Thee simple amusing drawings in these notebooks went on to form his portfolio that led him to his first job as a weekly cartoonist in The Current. The candid imagery that he had captured on these pages also led to him being offered a scholarship from the Gulbenkian Foundation of Lisbon which allowed him to earn a living as a cartoonist.
He studied in St. Xaviers and did a B.A in history and English. After this he travelled around a bit but moved back to Bombay to earn a living after the unfortunate death of his father. Here he made drawings of the famous monuments like The gateway of India, Babulnath Temple and Haji Ali mosque. These drawings were a major success amongst the tourists. This is when he began making an actual living. Soon after this he was introduced to the editor of the The Current, D F Karaka who commissioned him to do a scene of the people dancing in an event hosted at the Taj. This image was an immediate hit and this born artist got his break through. He had a good career here where people began taking notice of the new boy on the block. He also drew considerable controversy with a comic about Morarji. It was after this incident that he chose to stay safe than be sorry and his impact dipped for a short period. It was during this dip that he was invited to join the Times group as an illustrator. This was his big break and it became a platform for him to gain national attention. The regular comic strip in the times allowed him to develop his own imaginary personas like ‘Miss Fonesca’, ‘Gobole’ and ‘Rajani’ and this further led him to create his own identity. After this he made the biggest gamble of his life and took an artistic decision to quit his job and increase his horizons by going to Lisbon. He travelled around and studied art at École des Beaux-Arts which helped him improve his credentials as a professional. This was the beginning of his career as a serious artist and he soon gained the much deserved international attention. This included being invited to the US and Israel as a guest to confer with cartoonists. His journey to become a household name was slow but inspirational.
He passed away on the 11th of December in Loutolim, Goa at his ancestral home. He has had an eventful life and has made at least fifty thousand paintings throughout his life. His last days were as active as his initial days even though he was ailing. His art will also be a reminder of the colourful personality he had. The memories of this celebrated figure are not restricted to this world but to a whole other fictional world that he had created