isn’t my Goa’
Cartoonist Mario Miranda speaks of the decadence in Goa and why he lives
has been documenting Goa in his own peculiar way for decades now. Four years
after moving back to his ancestral home in Loutolim, Mario Miranda has grown
disillusioned — with Goa, with the way it’s run and with the
direction it’s heading in. The International Film Festival do is just
one example. In what he calls the longest interview he’s ever done,
he speaks to Tehelka about Goa, cartoons and criticism of his work.
do you see Goa going these days?
My kind of Goa is definitely on its way out. I don’t know if it’s
going in the wrong direction, but it’s certainly changing.
In what way?
Goan culture — the food, the music, the attitude we have, that’s
what makes Goa so attractive — it’s not the same anymore.
Take the sort of people at the inaugural ceremony of the International
Film Festival of India (iffi), for example. I saw it on television and
I couldn’t see one recognisable Goan face that loves movies or the
you think that has happened?
at Home: Mario Miranda remembers the good times photo by leo mirani
It’s definitely a premeditated move to keep the Goans out. I’ve
been part of the Goa cultural scene for years and I was not even told
about iffi, forget being invited. I would have liked to have contributed
in some way, but they didn’t ask.
Are you disillusioned with Goa?
Why do you continue to stay here then?
Because of this house, and after all, I am a Goan. But I wouldn’t
like my sons to go on living here. Although I wouldn’t like to move
away, it’s just not the same.
Do you miss Bombay?
Yes, of course. Bombay was great, very alive. I didn’t have many
friends, but people like Uma (DaCunha), Charles Correa, Behram Contractor
were there. But even the Bombay scene has changed. It’s becoming
sophisticated, more posh. Before we used to go sit at an Irani, now they’re
getting knocked down for five stars.
You like to call yourself a social cartoonist. Have you done
any cartoons about the state of Goa?
Oh plenty. Less now, because it would get monotonous but I have done quite
a bit. For me Goa is about the world of Tennessee Williams: that feeling
of decadence. I love decadence. That feeling is there with the enormous
houses, solitary ladies in their rocking chairs. It’s a bit depressing
too, because nobody knows what’s going to happen next.
Do you think cartoonists need to be socially active?
No. People look at my work trying to find messages, but there’s
no message. But they find messages in a lot of things. If there’s
a bird, they try to analyse why the bird was there. The bird was there
because I dropped some ink and I had to do something with it, so I made
a blob of ink into a crow.
So you don’t call yourself a social cartoonist?
I’m not a political cartoonist. You could call me a social cartoonist.
But I’m not so much a cartoonist as I am an artist. A humourous
artist, if you will. Some people like my humour, some don’t.
What do you think of comics and cartoons in India?
I think it’s going down. A country of a billion and we have so few
cartoonists. Earlier, cartoons used to be given some sort of importance
but today they’re getting smaller and smaller. I think humour is
dying out. But there is a lot of scope for humour in India. Kerala produces
good cartoons, but their problem is language. Their art is fantastic but
if they want to produce good humour, they have to learn the language.
Do you think we have the ability to laugh at ourselves?
Not in India, not so much. I’ve got into trouble for my cartoons.
Not because of any political approach because my cartoons are not political.
We seem to be losing our sense of humour. Everything is becoming too pompous
But a cartoonist needs to be very aware of his surroundings,
Yes, but that comes naturally. When I go somewhere, for example at an
airport and the flight is delayed, I’m never bored. I’m always
watching people, their behaviour, their attitude.
Some people say that your style is getting repetitive.
I admit it. The same things are happening. You go back 10 years and the
same problems are happening now. I sometimes go through my old books and
we have the same troubles. It’s not even funny anymore. How long
can you keep on drawing funny politicians?
But your work is not intellectual.
Definitely not. People try to find deeper meaning. I had a friend called
Miji Patel. He was a very good artist but he always wanted to be a cartoonist
but he had a very intellectual approach to humour and nobody understood,
so he didn’t click. I told him he had to come down to the level
that people expect, like Laxman. He draws what people expect him to draw.
Do you consider it low-brow?
I don’t consider it high-brow.
Your taste in music, books, film are very high-brow and you
still make low-brow cartoons.
You called it low-brow, not me. But like I said, people could not understand
Miji Patel’s humour and my work is something everybody understands.
Humour is a very personal thing. What is funny to you may not be to me.
Do you plan to quit cartooning entirely?
No, not at all. I will go on and on, till I drop.
Do you actively enjoy doing what you do?
I enjoy it at times. There are times when you really feel like drawing
and there are bad days when you feel like giving up the whole thing. But
usually it’s like a cycle. But I paint also, I do some serious work.
That’s why I like Goa, because of its feel of decadence. It’s
a way of life which has existed for so many hundreds of years and it’s
fast disappearing. I remember life the way it used to be. It was so grand.