Ismail Merchant

‘Call me Ismail,’ it could plausibly begin: a screenplay not of Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick but of the real-life relationship between two filmmakers renowned for their adaptations of a string of other classic novels. Ismail Merchant first met James Ivory on the steps of the Indian consulate in Manhattan in 1961. ‘Call me by your name,’ the Ivory character might wittily retort in this imagined biopic. That, of course, was to be the title of the film scripted by Ivory nearly a decade and a half after Merchant’s death in 2005, but it captures something of the symbiotic nature of their partnership.

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