Home   >   Movie Stars   >   M   >   Ismail Merchant
Ismail Merchant
  • Biography

Ismail Merchant

Although Ismail Merchant was born in Bombay, he has 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. Merchant's first film was a theatrical short, THE CREATION OF WOMEN, which was nominated in 1961 for an Academy Award and was an official entry from the United States in the Cannes Film Festival that same year. While en route to the Festival, Merchant met James Ivory, who agreed to form a partnership, Merchant Ivory Productions, to make English-language theatrical features in India for the international market.

It was not only the visual beauty and charm of India that attracted Merchant, but also the opportunity to finance his films with funds from frozen Rupee accounts of major American distributors. These accounts contained distribution proceeds that the Indian government would not allow to be repatriated, but which could be utilized under an agreement to make films in India. Thus, THE HOUSEHOLDER was Merchant's first feature and first Indian film to be distributed worldwide by a major American company, Columbia Pictures. It was followed by more Indian features, all in some way funded wholly or in part by an American studio: SHAKESPEARE WALLAH (1965), THE GURU (1969), and BOMBAY TALKIE (1970).

For over thirty years, Merchant Ivory Productions has endured as one of the most productive collaborations in cinema, bringing forth such films as HOWARDS'S END, THE GOLDEN BOWL, THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, A ROOM WITH A VIEW, MR. & MRS. BRIDGE, A SOLDIER'S DAUGHTER NEVER CRIES, HEAT AND DUST, THE BOSTONIANS and THE EUROPEANS. Merchant's previous film as Director/Producer was COTTON MARY, filmed in Kerala, and starring Madhur Jaffrey, Greta Scacchi, and James Wilby. The film tells the tale of an Anglo-Indian nurse in search of her identity in Post-Colonial India, and has been described as the finest example of Merchant's ability to combine the best of East and West in modern cinema.

Merchant is also a renowned chef and author of a number of books on cookery, including ISMAIL MERCHANT'S INDIAN CUISINE, ISMAIL MERCHANT'S FLORENCE, ISMAIL MERCHANT'S PASSIONATE MEALS and ISMAIL MERCHANT'S PARIS: FILMING AND FEASTING IN FRANCE. In addition, he has authored a book about the making of the film THE DECEIVERS in 1988 called HULLABALOO IN OLD JEYPUR, and another about the making of THE PROPRIETOR called ONCE UPON A TIMETHE PROPRIETOR.

The American release of THE GOLDEN BOWL in April of 2001, starring Nick Nolte, Uma Thurman and Anjelica Huston, marked the Fortieth Anniversary of Merchant's career in film production, a career which has already earned the Merchant Ivory team a place in The Guinness Book of World Records for the longest partnership in independent cinema. In addition to numerous accolades Merchant has won in the world of film, he is also an Honorary Doctor of Arts at Bard College, New York, and an Honorary Doctor of Arts at Wesleyan College, University of Illinois. He has been honored by the Mayor of New York, received the Marie des Paris for his outstanding contribution to cinema and has also received the Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the Ministry of Culture in France.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2002.

Ismail Merchant Facts

Birth NameIsmail Noormohamed Abdul Rehman
BirthdayDecember 25, 1936
BirthplaceBombay, India
Date of deathMay 25, 2005 (age 68)

Selected Filmography

Not available.