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Nov 5, 2004

The Householder

The first ever movie to come out of the Merchant-Ivory collaboration. The director-producer-writer trio of James Ivory, Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabhwala make their first film based on the story of a newly married couple in New Delhi in the early sixties.

Berkeley born James Ivory falls in love with Indian miniature paintings(Mughal) in some exibition somewhere in California, he has no idea what these paintings are about or where they came from, inquisitive for knowledge as he is, he digs out the source and makes a documentary about them! This leads him to his meeting with Ismail Merchant, which becomes the first move towards a long lasting partnership in world cinema - the Merchant Ivory Productions. The two then approach Ruth Prawer Jhabhwala in India, German born budding writer settled in India with her husband, for her novel, The Householder. Neither of the three has any experience in making a feature film, but they embark on the adventure nevertheless and thus we have The Householder, starring young(at the time 25) Shashi Kapoor and Leela Naidu as the newly weds grappling with life in an Indian city.

In a way the young couple is representative of the spirit of India at the time - the early sixties, when Nehru was unleashing his 'dreams unlimited' through his 5 year plans, the country was changing, the youth was the strongest currency in the market and this sudden transformation to individualism and freedom did bring about increased responsibilities and friction with the old. It is a tightly knit movie from the first timers, maybe one of the few where Merchant-Ivory didn't take refuge in the relics of the Raj and the young energy of the film is refreshing.