By Ankitha Joseph
The Mario Gallery run by Gerard Da Cunha, through their merchandising is exhibiting few of the finest works of the legendary artist-cartoonist Mario Miranda
Back in the days, a ten-year old boy was asked to draw regularly every-day and maintain a diary. It wasn’t a work of exceptional expertise; there were drawbacks in his work. But as the little boy grew old, his work too grew with him. He learnt from his mistakes and mastered the art that started out as a hobby – cartooning. Mário João Carlos do Rosário de Brito Miranda popularly known as Mario Miranda is an international icon from India.
2011 witnessed the demise of the legend Mario Miranda, though his soul still rested in his drawings. He left behind over fifteen thousand drawings but their future was not decided until Gerard Da Cunha came into picture. One of the leading architects in Goa, Gerard was commissioned by Mario to create a book which was released in 2008. The book led to the personal bond shared between Gerard and Mario. Later, after Mario’s demise, his family asked Gerard to be in charge of Mario’s work and earn for the family. Hence, began an interesting addition to Gerard’s life and he started out merchandising and publicizing Mario’s work. It began with a few exhibitions and art expos which later expanded to make the much famous, ‘Mario Gallery’ in Goa. “I’m not a businessman. So it started in sort of an innocuous way. At the beginning, I started putting stuff in my reception and then I started supplying it to other shops. About 4 years ago, in 2013, I opened my first Mario Gallery in Panjim.” says Gerard.
Currently, The Mario Gallery has five stores across the State. Panjim being their first store, Candolim, Porvorim and Margao followed with the recent one in Carmona. These being the main Mario Gallery stores, there is also a franchise of the gallery set up in Mumbai in the form of much smaller kiosk. Among the five stores, the one which receives most footfall is the Candolim store, says Gerard Da Cunha.
Goa is an all-year tourist destination; tourists from across the country and globe visit the state to unwind and unravel. According to Gerard, since the inception of The Mario Gallery, their customer base has been divided into two sections. Firstly, the Goan local Mario fans who find the importance of having Mario’s work in their respective homes; and secondly, Goans abroad who find a valuable gift in the merchandise. Thus, The Mario Gallery and its products help many go beyond the typical cashew and feni as gifts and souvenirs.
Gerard’s initiative has led to the commercialization of Mario’s work; and over the years, many have had doubts of whether his work would have survived without being commercialized. In Gerard’s opinion, Mario’s work would have not faded for the true Mario fans that are out there but the challenge would have been to let the younger generation know more about this legend. Through the merchandise produced by the gallery, Mario’s work still remains a favourite to many and the younger ones are finding their interest in it, too. Gerard says, “Re-introduction of the books, the blogs, and memorabilia of his time are all aspects that contribute to Mario living in the present times.” As the sole proprietor of The Mario Gallery, Gerard Da Cunha, at all times, has to wear multiple hats and handle a variety of aspects under the same umbrella. “Publicizing his work is one of the most essential duties taken care of by me. A further classification will include publication of books on Mario and his work, merchandising and licensing of Mario’s work.” He further adds, “I feel we are a boon to many who want to sell Goa to the rest of the world.”
Along with the above mentioned tasks and responsibilities; Gerard also plays the role of an ideator for The Mario Gallery. Every product displayed in The Mario Gallery is designed and ideated by Gerard himself; few of his latest designs are the silicon wristbands with Mario’s characters on them and secondly, what is fondly called the Mario cube. Other than these, their line of products include t-shirts, scarves, beach robes, tins, cups and mugs, lamps, key chains, postcards, purses, coasters, fridge magnets, jigsaw puzzles and many more. The Gallery has also recently started with the concept, ‘Print on Demand’ – wherein one can choose the drawing that they would like on a particular product.
With merchandising taking a new step every day, Gerard wishes to play an important role for the corporates in the State. “Our quality and subject (Mario’s work) is very good. We are catering to a great number of event managers who hold corporate events in Goa. If a company is hosting a conference in Goa, we can print Mario’s drawings on their souvenirs which will end up being a memorable and dear one to the participants; and will help us reach a larger audience, too. We play a great role in the conference market and hope to reach the company market soon.’
Among the large collection of Mario Miranda’s drawings, Gerard mentioned of the few that stand closest to the audience’s heart; Colour in the Market, Togetherness and Dinner A la Carte.
The store has been functioning for the past four years and has created a customer base for itself but, few of the recent government reforms have brought in a certain amount of disappointment for the producers and consumers as well. While people are still getting over the despair of demonetization, GST has only added to the agony. After the implementation of GST, tax rates of certain products have seen a drastic change. “Nationally this might be a very good move; but as a souvenir store that we are, it hasn’t been very positive so far,” says Gerard.
With the purpose of popularizing and publicizing Mario’s work, Gerard stuck to his mediums such as the publications, blogs and merchandising. But very recently few new ones have been added including email marketing, social media marketing and radio advertising.
“It’s been an interesting journey for me. It started off for the simple reason that there was a need for the Mario name to earn money and since then it’s been taking off. Overall, it has been a great experience,” says Gerard summarising his journey with The Mario Gallery so far. With the present five stores in the state, Gerard feels consolidated; but if ever given a chance to start one more, it would be at the airport. “I’ve always wanted a store in the airport but it hasn’t happened yet for the amount of formalities involved in it.”
Many art lovers have approached Gerard to start stores outside the state as well, but Gerard’s keen eye for quality and maintenance of the store hasn’t allowed him to do so yet. Having analysed Mario’s work and considering his relationship with Mario, for Gerard The Mario Gallery is not just a business but something much more personal.
With initiatives like The Mario Gallery, Mario’s soul shall remain with the people for years to come; and even stand as the only helping hand for those willing to learn and analyze his work