Ismail Merchant was born Ismail Noormohamed Abdul Rehman in Bombay, India, on 12/25/36.

After getting his MBA from New York University, he shot a 14-minute short The Creation of Women. He sent a press release announcing his arrival in Los Angeles. No newspaper picked it up and no studio gave him an interview. So he sold classified ads for the LA Times.

James Ivory studied film at USC. He won critical praise for the short documentaries Venice: Theme and Variation (1957) and The Sword and the Flute (1959).

While shooting a documentary in India, according to one story, Ivory met Merchant and in 1961, they formed Merchant-Ivory Productions with the goal of making English-language films in India for international release; Ivory directed while Merchant sought funding from numerous sources.

According to another story, Merchant met his future partner James Ivory at a screening of Ivory's documentary "The Sword and the Flute" in New York City.

Merchant and Ivory formed Merchant Ivory Productions in May 1961. Their first picture was THE HOUSEHOLDER in 1963.