May 27, 2005
The passing of producer Ismail Merchant, of Merchant Ivory, today at age 68 reminds me that this his was a brand that could have qualified for a nomination with the Medinge Group's Top Brands with a Conscience.
Merchant Ivory films celebrated a certain level of Englishness, despite Mr Merchant's roots in Mumbai. One exception was the recent Le Divorce, but there was Room with a View and Howard's End.
But it's not the content of the films; rather, the idea of an Indian producer breaking in to mainstream markets dominated by Hollywood long before any fascination with "Bollywood".
He and his American film-making partner charted their own path, gave us films that won Oscars, in an era when western people viewed a rapidly industrializing India through nineteenth century stereotypes.
While Mr Merchant went to university outside India, he was proudly Indian, holding on to his passport as well as a British one.
I admire trailblazers, and Mr Merchant certainly was one. I am sure he faced his share of racial prejudice, yet stuck with his principles of making the best films he possibly could. He would have been less well financially resourced than his colleagues in California, but proved that no one possesses a monopoly on excellence. If anything, he proved that deep pockets have nothing to do with success, one of the messages of this site and book. Mr Merchant's record speaks for itself. permalink
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