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Cotton Mary DVD From director Ismail Merchant of the famed Merchant Ivory team comes this... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now



Also Known As: Ismail Noormohamed Abdul Rehman Died: May 25, 2005
Born: December 25, 1936 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: India Profession: producer, director, screenwriter, actor, advertising executive trainee, messenger for United Nations, restaurateur, cookbook author

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An epicurean who fosters a family atmosphere on his sets, often cooking sumptuous meals for cast and crew, Bombay-born producer Ismail Merchant is one half of the prolific "Merchant-Ivory" team, responsible for an oeuvre of handsome and thoughtful independent films reflecting an eye for the exotic and the beautiful and an ear for the carefully wrought line of dialogue. Along with Oregon-raised director James Ivory and the German-raised screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (a Polish Jew educated in Britain and married to an Indian), he is actually part of a triumvirate, perhaps best described by the Hindi word 'sangam' meaning "meeting of three rivers", in this case Asia, Europe and North America. Merchant was introduced to Ivory in 1961 when the producer was 24 and the director was 32. The pair shared a common collaborator, Saeed Jaffrey, who had narrated both Merchant's Oscar-nominated 1960 short "The Creation of Woman" and Ivory's short film "The Sword and the Flute" (1961). Meeting at a screening for the latter, the two eventually formed Merchant-Ivory Productions (MIP) to make English-language features in India for the international market. Their first film, "The Householder" (1963) was adapted by...

An epicurean who fosters a family atmosphere on his sets, often cooking sumptuous meals for cast and crew, Bombay-born producer Ismail Merchant is one half of the prolific "Merchant-Ivory" team, responsible for an oeuvre of handsome and thoughtful independent films reflecting an eye for the exotic and the beautiful and an ear for the carefully wrought line of dialogue. Along with Oregon-raised director James Ivory and the German-raised screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (a Polish Jew educated in Britain and married to an Indian), he is actually part of a triumvirate, perhaps best described by the Hindi word 'sangam' meaning "meeting of three rivers", in this case Asia, Europe and North America. Merchant was introduced to Ivory in 1961 when the producer was 24 and the director was 32. The pair shared a common collaborator, Saeed Jaffrey, who had narrated both Merchant's Oscar-nominated 1960 short "The Creation of Woman" and Ivory's short film "The Sword and the Flute" (1961). Meeting at a screening for the latter, the two eventually formed Merchant-Ivory Productions (MIP) to make English-language features in India for the international market. Their first film, "The Householder" (1963) was adapted by Jhabvala from her novel.

Merchant's financial and marketing expertise as a producer greatly contributed to the team's success and enhanced their international profile. "The Householder" became the first Indian movie to be distributed worldwide by a major American company, in this case Columbia Pictures, and they followed with "Shakespeare Wallah" (1965), about a troupe of British actors traveling through India, which earned raves from the CAHIERS DU CINEMA critic at its debut at the Berlin Film Festival and further enhanced their reputations. "The Guru" (1969) marked their first USA-financed film, and the 70s saw Merchant-Ivory move away from Indian subjects to make pictures like "The Wild Party" (1975), an uneven evocation of 20s Hollywood with a nod to the 'Fatty' Arbuckle scandal, and "Roseland" (1977), inspired by the famous NYC dance hall. "The Europeans" (1979), based on a Henry James novel, began their love affair with tasteful adaptations of literary classics, on which their reputation rests. Merchant-Ivory brings to mind James ("The Bostonians" 1984) but more particularly E.M. Forster, whose novels provided the raw material for two Oscar-nominated Best Pictures ("A Room With a View" 1986, "Howards End" 1992) and the critically-praised "Maurice" (1987).

On the heels of the enthusiasm shown the Forster adaptations, Merchant-Ivory brought forth the immaculate historic reconstruction "The Remains of the Day" (1993), based on the novel by Anglo-Asian writer Kazuo Ishiguro, reteaming "Howards End" stars Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in a high-rent battle of the sexes, but despite its numerous Oscar nominations, some critics disparaged it as a pretty but staid simplification of the novel. Their signature work has all featured the low-key Ivory at the helm, the colorful Merchant behind the scenes and resident screenwriter Jhabvala, a two-time Oscar-winner ("A Room With a View", Howards End") who had received screenplay credit on 20 Merchant Ivory projects through 1998. However, not everything they touched turned to gold as the commercial failures of the turgid "Jefferson in Paris" (1995) and the much better "Surviving Picasso" (1996) attest. Their "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries" (1998), based on the autobiographical novel by novelist James Jones' daughter Kaylie, returned to the trio's favorite theme of displacement, and represented an artistic triumph, if not a success on the magnitude of their greatest hits.

In addition to his Oscar-nominated "The Creation of Woman", Merchant directed the short "Mahatma and the Mad Boy" (1973) and the documentary "The Courtesans of Bombay" (1983), which he also scripted with Ivory and Jhabvala. He made his feature debut with "In Custody" (1994), an engaging, rueful comedy lamenting the passing of Urdu, a Northern Indian language cherished by poets and writers, that won over most reviewers. "The Proprietor" (1996), on the other hand, was a confused mess that represented a step backwards artistically for Merchant the director. Undaunted, he helmed the fine character drama "Cotton Mary" (2000), which he planned to follow with an adaptation of the V.S. Naipul book "The Mystic Masseur", all the while continuing to serve as producer for traditional Merchant-Ivory fare like a proposed feature of "The Golden Bowl" (based on a novel by henry James) and "The White Countess", a script by Ishiguro. Next for Merchant and his regular collaborators Ivory and Jhabvala was a sophisticated, unpretentious adaptation of Diane Johnson's bestselling novel "Le Divorce" (2003), a relaxed, sophisticated and contemporary tale of two American sisters in Paris: one a pregnant expatriated poetess (Naomi Watts) suddenly abandoned by her philandering French husband; the other a fresh, naive young woman (Kate Hudson) caught up in a seemingly cosmopolitan affair with a roguish, married and much older French diplomat.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Mystic Masseur, The (2001) Director
2.
  Cotton Mary (1999) Director
3.
  Proprietor, The (1996) Director
4.
  Lumiere Et Compagnie (1996) Featured Co-Director (Merchant-Ivory)
5.
  In Custody (1994) Director
6.
  Courtesans of Bombay (1986) Director
7.
  Mahatma and the Mad Boy (1974) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Jefferson in Paris (1995) Tipoo Sultan'S Ambassador
3.
 The Guru (1969) Master of ceremonies
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1946:
First job in film, a walk-on part in a Bombay film, age nine (date approximate)
:
Expressing his future mercantile interests, adopted the surname Merchant while in his teens
1958:
Immigrated to the USA
1960:
Directed and co-produced short film "The Creation of Woman", based on an Indian myth; received Oscar nomination as Best Live-Action Short Subject; its narrator, Saeed Jaffrey (who would appear in four Merchant-Ivory films) had also narrated James Ivory's second short film, "The Sword and the Flute", about Indian art
1961:
Met Ivory at screening for "The Sword and the Flute"; formed Merchant-Ivory Productions (MIP)
1963:
First MIP production, "The Householder"; also marked first collaboration with screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who adapted her novel
1964:
First non-Indian (British) film, "The Delhi Way"
1965:
Had success with "Shakespeare Wallah", about a troupe of actors travelling throughout India
1969:
First US-financed film, "The Guru"; portrayed Emcee
1972:
MIP produced the documentary "Adventures of a Brown Man in Search of Civilization" (BBC-TV)
1973:
Directed the short "Mahatma and the Mad Boy"; co-produced with Ivory
1979:
First feature adaptation of a Henry James novel, "The Europeans"
1983:
Returned to India as a subject for feature film, "Heat and Dust", adapted by Jhabvala from her novel
1983:
Collaborated on the screenplay (with Ivory and Jhabvala) and directed the documentary "Courtesans of Bombay"
1984:
Second James adaptation, "The Bostonians"; first film with actor Christopher Reeve; also starred Vanessa Redgrave
1986:
First feature without Ivory, executive produced "My Little Girl" under the Merchant-Ivory Productions banner; Connie Kaiserman produced, directed and scripted
1986:
Breakthrough feature and first film based on an E.M. Forster novel, "A Room with a View"; received eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture
1987:
Tackled Forster again with adaptation of the gay-themed "Maurice"
1989:
Missed with "Slaves of New York", scripted by Tama Janowitz from her book of stories
1990:
Teamed with Paul Newman and wife Joanne Woodward for "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge"
1992:
Third Forster adaptation, "Howards End" which received nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture; starred Emma Thompson (who won a Best Actress Oscar), Anthony Hopkins and Vanessa Redgrave
1992:
Closed a three-year production deal with Walt Disney Studios
1993:
Reteamed with Thompson and Hopkins for "Remains of the Day"; nominated for eight Oscars including Best Picture (produced with Mike Nichols and John Calley); second film with Reeve
1993:
First film under the Disney/Merchant-Ivory deal, "Jefferson in Paris"; played small role as Tipoo Sultan's Ambassador
1993:
Opened first restaurant, Bombay Bistro on West 58th Street in NYC
1994:
Feature directorial debut, "In Custody"
1996:
Third film with Hopkins, "Surviving Picasso"
1996:
Helmed "The Proprietor" from his story; a step backward artistically compared with his feature debut
1997:
Entered into production deal with UK-based Capitol Films
1998:
Produced Ivory's "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries", based on Kaylie Jones' autobiographical novel about life with her father, the novelist James Jones
1998:
Executive produced Tony Gerber's "Side Streets"
1998:
Opened French-Indian restaurant in NYC, Pondicherry
2000:
Served as producer of the James Ivory-directed "The Golden Bowl", adapted from Henry James' novel
2000:
Directed third feature, the period drama "Cotton Mary"
2001:
Helmed "The Mystic Masseur", an adaptation of a fiction by V.S. Naipul
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Education

St Xavier's College: - 1958
New York University: New York , New York - 1960

Notes

"A producer has to have many hats on his head. You're a financial wizard, a great promoter, you foster a feeling of camaraderie, you win the confidence of those working with you. They all have to believe in the producer. The producer is the heart." --Ismail Merchant to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, March 18, 1991

"[Ismail Merchant] keeps everything in place. He makes things happen. It all works because he is there and it wouldn't work otherwise. I have always thought that the three of us are a bit like the United States Government. I've said this before and I don't mind saying it again. I'm the President. Ismail is the Congress and Ruth is the Supreme Court. That's how we operate. That's how we get our business done and I think that defines our functions." --James Ivory quoted in an October 4, 1995 press release issued when he received the D W Griffith Award

"Some of our films have gone through the roof, and others, like 'Jefferson in Paris' and 'Surviving Picasso', no one went to see. Whether we've made two dollars or two million, no matter. We feel contented because it's work that motivates us. It's nice to travel, to be in Paris, to be in Bombay, to be in New York. But if I had no money, I would still travel, as I was doing in 1962.

"I have lived in America for 38 years, yet I have no trace of the American way of speech. I remain an Indian, no one can challenge that, but I have a number of branches in other countries. If I went to China tomorrow, I'd feel at home. I can go to a stranger's house anywhere in the world and prepare a meal without knowing where the dishes are." --Ismail Merchant to BIOGRAPHY MAGAZINE, November 1998

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Parmesh Merchant.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Noormohamed Haji Abdul Rehman. Textile dealer.
mother:
Hazra Rehman.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Ismail Merchant's Indian Cuisine" St. Martin's Press
"Hullabaloo in Old Jeypore: The Making of the Deceivers" Doubleday
"Ismail Merchant's Vegetarian Cuisine"
"Ismail Merchant's Florence: Filming and Feasting in Tuscany" Harry N. Abrams Inc.
"Ismail Merchant's Passionate Meals: The New Indian Cuisine for Fearless Cooks and Adventurous Eaters" Hyperion
"Ismail Merchant's Paris: Filming and Feasting in France" Harry N. Abrams Inc.
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