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Ismail Merchant

Ismail Merchant (born 25 December1936 at Mumbai) He did not marry and did not have children. Merchant left for the US when he was 22 to study business at New York University. He soon moved on to making his first film The Creation of Woman, which made it to the Cannes Film Festival in 1961 and was also nominated for an Academy Award that year.

He met filmmaker James Ivory on his way to Cannes at the screening of his documentary The Sword and the Flute (1959) in New York City. Together with him, he co-founded Merchant Ivory Productions (MIP) with the aim of making 'English-language films in India aimed at the international market'. He died in 2005 at London. MIP came out with its first production in 1963, The Householder. MIP made about 40 films with Ruth Praver-Jhabvala.

Education & Career of Ismail Merchant

Ismail Merchant lived and worked for most of his life in the West, completing his education at New York University where he earned his Masters Degree in Business Administration.

Important Works of Ismail Merchant

Merchant directed The Mystic Masseur (2002); Cotton Mary (1999); The Proprietor (1996); Lumière and Company (1995, segment "Merchant Ivory, Paris") co-director with James Ivory; In Custody(1993) (feature debut); The Courtesans of Bombay (1983, documentary); and Mahatma and the Mad Boy (1974, short). He produced The White Countess (2005); Heights (2004); Le Divorce (2003); Merci Docteur Rey (2002); The Golden Bowl (2001); Cotton Mary (2000); A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (1998); Side Streets (1998) - executive producer; Surviving Picasso (1996); Lumière and Company (1995, segment); Jefferson in Paris (1995); Feast of July (1995) - executive producer; The Remains of the Day (1993); Howards End (1991); Street Musicians of Bombay (1991) - executive producer; Mr & Mrs Bridge (1990); The Ballad of the Sad Café (1990); Slaves of New York (1989); The Perfect Murder (1988) - executive producer; The Deceivers (1988); Maurice (1987); My Little Girl (1986) - executive producer; A Room with a View (1985); Noon Wine (1985, TV) - executive producer (not Merchant Ivory); The Bostonians (1984); Heat and Dust (1983); (1983) - also director; Quartet (1981); Jane Austen in Manhattan (1980); The Europeans (1979); Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures (1976); Roseland (1977); Sweet Sounds (1976, short); The Wild Party (1975); Autobiography of a Princess (1975); Mahatma and the Mad Boy (1974, short) - also director; Helen: Queen of the Nautch Girls (1973, short); Savages (1973); Adventures of a Brown Man in Search of Civilization (1972, TV); Bombay Talkie (1970); The Guru (1969); Shakespeare Wallah (1965); The Householder (1963); and The Creation of Woman (1960, short). He was the writer for The Courtesans of Bombay (1983) (TV).

Renowned Work

Merchant authored many books on cooking such as Ismail Merchant's Passionate Meals and Ismail Merchant's Indian Cooking. He also wrote books on the making of films such as The Deceivers and The Proprietor. His last book was My Passage From India: A Filmmaker's Jurney from Bombay to Hollywood and Beyond.

Merchant was working on The White Countess set in China and the MIP productions on Hindu goddess Shakti, The Goddess, a musical.


Merchant was nominated for 4 Oscars, won another 6 awards and 3 nominations. Their A Room With A View, and Howard's End, adaptations from E M Foster, won Oscars (three apiece). He won the Padma Bhushan (2002) and The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence.

Paintings of Ismail, James Ivory and Ruth Pawar Jhabvala of MIP are featured in the National Portrait Gallery in London though they are not English and live in New York City. While Ismail is Indian, James is American and Ruth is German/Polish. Ismail and James earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest partnership in the history of independent cinema. He was a member of the jury at the 1998 Venice Film Festival.

He was conferred Commandeur de l/Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters), a title conferred by the French culture ministry and Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Bard's College, New York.