12-25-1936

[l to r] James Ivory and Ismael Merchant

ISMAEL MERCHANT, Indian-born film producer born (d. 2005); Indian-born film producer, best known for the results of his famously long collaboration with Merchant Ivory Productions which included director James Ivory and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Their films won six Academy Awards. Ivory was Merchant’s life partner.

In 1961, Merchant created the film production company, Merchant Ivory Productions, with James Ivory. Until Merchant’s death in 2005, the company produced a number of award-winning films. Prawer Jhabvala was the screenwriter for most productions. They made close to forty films together. Their partnership has a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest partnership in independent cinema history.

An accomplished cook as well, Merchant wrote several books on the art 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. He also wrote books on film making, including 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 Time . . . The Proprietor. His most recent book was, My Passage From India: A Filmmaker’s Journey from Bombay to Hollywood and Beyond.

In 2002, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, an Indian civilian decoration established on January 2, 1954 by the President of India. It stands third in the hierarchy of civilian awards, after the Bharat Ratna and the Padma Vibhushan, but comes before the Padma Sri. It is awarded to recognize distinguished service of a high order to the nation, in any field.