In a business where professional marriages last hardly any longer than personal ones, [Ismail Merchant]'s association with the German-born [Ruth Prawer Jhabvala] and the American Ivory, who was also Merchant's life partner, spanned more than 40 years and yielded as many movies.
At the time of his death, Merchant was developing "The Goddess." To star Tina Turner, the film was to be a modern version of a Bollywood musical, the Indian films Merchant watched as a child that cemented his love of moviemaking. He also produced "Heights," a modern drama opening in June from first-time director Chris Terrio.
Though many producers serve as hired guns who supervise a movie set, Merchant was adept at raising money, wooing distributors and shaping a film's marketing and publicity campaign. When "Howards End" grossed more than $1 million at a single New York theater, Merchant suggested an elaborate celebration at the Plaza Hotel to mark the milestone. It turned into a media event.