Mario Miranda was a quintessential Goan: Shyam Benegal

Last Updated: Dec 12, 2011, 09:33 AM IST

New Delhi: Noted filmmaker Shyam Benegal was inspired by the legendary Goa-based cartoonist Mario Miranda -- who passed away Sunday morning -- into making "Trikal", a movie about the Portuguese community in Goa. The movie won Benegal a national award for best direction in 1986.

"Mario was a quintessential Goan - laid back and talented, who did not want to show off. His family was genteel - full of wonderful people," Benegal told IANS in a rare moment of rumination.

"On a visit to Goa, I went to Mario`s ancestral home in Lotulim village. It was a beautiful home - and I thought what is the film that I should be making about the mansion. It was a 300-year old family home dating back to the 17th century - one of the oldest mansions of Goa," he said.

"Trikal" turned out to be a loose biography of Mario`s family -- and the home, Benegal said.

"Mario`s mother lived at the family`s Lotulim home and Mario lived in Mumbai (then Bombay). Some aspects of Mario`s family came out in the movie. The home, one of the oldest Christian villas in Lotulim has a wonderful history," Benegal said.

"I made `Trikal` 27 years ago. It was inspired by a part of his (Mario`s) family history. One of his ancestors had captured a rebel Rane - who had rebelled against the Portuguese. When his head was presented to the Portuguese governor, he (Mario`s ancestor) found out it was the wrong Rane...," the filmmaker said.

The movie marked the return of Leela Naidu to the screen after many decades.

Set in Goa in 1961 in the last cusp of the Portuguese influence -- the film, a comedy, revolves around the life and tribulations of a fictional Goan Christian family Souza Soares. At the heart of the period drama is the story of Ana, whose engagement is postponed after her grandfather`s sudden death -- and the tumbling out of family secrets.

The movie also captures the transition of Goa from a Portuguese settlement to a state under the Indian union.

"Many of Mario`s old friends and -- probably a few relatives too -- featured in the movie. Mario, however, was much closer to Vinod Mehta, Bairam Contractor and my wife Nira -- who published the first few books as an editor at the India Book House," Benegal said.

Lotulim, a historic Portuguese village where Mario Miranda settled down after leaving Mumbai, probably had one of the oldest churches in Goa -- and another old home which is now owned by Lord Meghnad Desai and his wife Kishwar, Benegal said.

The filmmaker describes Mario as a "non-offensive, self-effacing artist with a wry sense of humour and subtle irony".

"He was a compassionate kindly man who understood human frailty. He painted exceptional pictures of Goa and the places he went to. It was his brush that spoke," Benegal said.

The filmmaker`s association with Mario Miranda goes back to a time "many, many years ago" when he had returned from England and Benegal was in advertising.

"He was one of those genuine innocents, who did not make much money out of his art... circumstances might be difficult for his wife Habiba now," the filmmaker said.

Miranda died in his sleep in Lotulim Sunday after a prolonged illness at the age of 85.