Saturday, February 04, 2006

Mario and the Secret of the Undying Memory

I have this crystal-clear memory of my Class 1 English text book. Which is quite something, given the large-holed-sieve that usually passes for my brain. It’s just that the images were so vivid and beautiful. They were drawn by the artist-illustrator Mario Miranda. The book was nothing fancy; it was just was a simple two-colour job (which means it had black, white and one other bright colour that the artist had to use intelligently so that readers wouldn’t miss the fantastic-though-expensive effects of multi-colour). And it had the wonderfully weird story of Dhondu and the Rotten Eggs, which, as you can see, is still emblazoned in my mind simply because Mario’s Dhondu was so delightful.

Mario’s figures were rounded, squat and goggle-eyed. His lines – thick and yet amazingly fluid – created human figures that were paunchy, solid, and decorated with small, exquisitely-funny flourishes. The irony was gentle and inclusive of us as children. All of it was memorable and enjoyable not because of the text, but because of Mario’s jewel-bright visuals! I wish I knew art better, so that I could discuss his work more eruditely. All I can do now is speak of the sheer joy his work brought.

As I grew up, so, surprisingly, did Mario. His figures grew longer, darker, more serious. It felt almost as if his style was evolving with me – which of course wasn’t true. It’s just that his lines were so distinctive that no matter how his treatment changed, you could always tell it was him. It felt good to have at least one artist whose work could be recognized without having to squint at the signature.

The truly amazing thing about Mario’s work is just that: no matter what he’s drawing, his style remains distinctive, though the treatments – and therefore the end results – vary. So whether it’s the delightful mural at Café Mondegar, with its joyfully hilarious caricatures; or a restrained, poetic, scrupulously-drawn series of tiles on
Goa; or a book on Paris with stipled, dark, meditative sketches on the city’s alleys and cafés; or a children’s book, with its transparent and endearing figures – you can always tell a Mario!

PS: We've been unusually and uncomfortably busy - which is why we haven't posted in so long! Sorry!