1936 - 2005

"Well, I am from India and I wanted to make films in English for the international market in India. So that was really the main thing, and then of course economically it was cheaper to make films in India."

- Ismail Merchant

Ismail Merchant’s love of film developed during his college years in Bombay. At 22 he came to the U.S. for a business administration degree, but was sidetracked into the film world. In 1961 he made the short film ‘The Creation of Woman’ which was subsequently shown at Cannes and earned an Academy Award nomination. While at Cannes he met future business and life partner James Ivory. Aimed at making English language films in India for an international market, they began Merchant Ivory Productions – it remains the longest professional partnership in independent film history. Prior to Merchant’s death, the team produced nearly 40 films, many of which included the talents of screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. In 1963 MIP’s first production ‘The Householder,’ became the first Indian-made film given international distribution by a major American studio. Beginning in the late 1970s the group became well known for a series of period films based on classic literature – ‘The Europeans,’ ‘The Bostonians,’ ‘Mr. and Mrs. Bridge,’ ‘Remains of the Day,’ ‘Heat and Dust,’ and their Oscar Award-winning E.M. Forster adaptations A Room With a View (1985), Howard’s End (1992) and Maurice (1987). Merchant’s strength as producer lay in his creative funding and amazing ability to produce lavish looking films for millions less than his contemporaries. He also loved to entertain and even wrote four best-selling cookbooks as well as several books about filmmaking. In addition to film awards, Merchant received several honors in his lifetime including the Padma Bhusan, India’s equivalent of knighthood in 2002. He died in 2005 at the age of 68 following surgery for abdominal ulcers


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Asian/Pacific Rim

Faith Construct Islamic

Nations Affiliated India United Kingdom United States

Era/Epoch Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution




Commemorations & Honors

International Center in New York's Award of Excellence Recipient

Merchant Ivory Productions is a Guinness Book of World Records Holder For the Longest Independent Film Partnership in Cinema History

BAFTA Award for Best Film A Room With a View (1986)

BAFTA Award for Best Film Howards End (1992)

Awarded Padma Bhushan the Third-Highest Civilian Award in India (2002)


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell