Bring back my Mumbai to me

Last Saturday, over much (probably too much) wine and cheese, my good friend the shiny eyed Paul Fernandes quietly offered his understated genius to 21st century Mumbaikars.
Housed in an industrial gala, this beautiful little art gallery in Worli,  was Paul's gift to the Bombay of yore, as many of us want to remember it. This was best reflected in the song composed and performed at the opening by his four charming sisters entitled " Bring back my Bombay to me"

Mumbai needs Paul's art form at least as much as Paul needs Mumbai to recognize his genius. Indeed, this evening was really about two great characters talking of each other. Not unlike the  mighty Federer in conversation with the legendary Laver. It takes two great characters of equal genius to do justice to each other.

A number of people do refer to Paul as the Mario Miranda of Mumbai. Mario's focus was always on the situation he portrayed and the people in it. As all good cartoonists do, and do very well. Paul's passion is about the place and its essential character. The people are only the props. In fact, he reminds me of my favourite artist Herge (you heard right) more than anyone else. Undoubtedly there were many interesting characters in TINTIN, drawn mostly from Herge's childhood.  But Herge was very much about the setting. And he went to great pains to research and captured the essence of those locations. Whether it was the chaotic streets of New Delhi or the criminal majesty of Chicago's skyline, Herge (like Paul now) captured and caricatured the environment with élan and passion in equal measure. Which is why all his titles are built around places. TINTIN in Tibet, The Land of Black Gold, TINTIN and the Picaros, TINTIN in America and the now infamous TINTIN in Congo.

When I was ten, HERGE transported me deep into the soul of these great locations. When I was forty, Paul unlocked the heart of Bangalore and Goa for me. And now he interprets for all of us the spirit of one of the truly great cities of the world.

Paul's peculiar genre of art, which Girish Karnad so elegantly referred to in his inaugural address as "Cultural Caricaturing" is probably more relevant today than when he first started doodling about his beloved Bangalore some twenty years ago.

In a world that increasingly secures itself around its immediate surroundings and time frames, Paul's work is akin to the protection of heritage buildings. It reminds, it preserves and it provokes.