Ismail Merchant R.I.P
Apart from being a fabulous producer, he was also a reasonably good director (Muhafiz, Mystic Massseur) and a self-confessed gourmet cook. Not many folks know about his efforts in getting Satyajit Ray a lifetime Oscar. This is from Merchant's autobiography:
At about this time I learned that Ray, who suffered from a heart condition, was declining in health. I felt it was time for him to be recognized for his important contribution to cinema by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which had never honoured him. I got in touch with Martin Scorcese, who I knew shared my admiration for Ray, and suggested should lobby the Academy. Scorcese and I drafted a letter that was sent to Academy members petitioning their support. The response was overwhelming and extraordinary. Fellini, Kubrick, Lucas, Coppola, Zeffirelli, Kurosawa, Paul Newman, Anthony Hopkins, Dustin Hoffman, Woody Allen were just a few of the movie luminaries who unreservedly endorsed our proposal. Among the many hundreds of those letters and testimonials written to the Academy's board of governors,
that of Gregory Peck made a significant point:
"With the current U.S. preoccupation with weekly box office figures, projected to the press and the TV audience like football scores, the image of our industry is that box office figures are our sole measure of success.
By honouring Satyajit Ray, the Academy would not only honour a true artist in film, it would remind the public and the media once more that Academy Awards are given for artists' excellence."
Ray was elected as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992.