Producer and director Ismail Merchant had a long association with the Oscars. Four of his films received Best Picture nominations, including his very first production, The Creation of Woman (1961) as well as A Room With A View (1985), Howards End (1992), and Remains Of The Day (1993).
The Creation of Woman, a short film produced by Merchant and directed by Charles F Schwep, was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Short Subject (Live Action) category. It didn’t win, but the Indian-born producer got enough visibility to set up Merchant Ivory Productions, in partnership with director James Ivory. The duo made films together for 44 years until Merchant’s death in 2005.
The 13-minute film, voiced by Saeed Jaffrey, explains the creation of man and woman through the eyes of Brahma, the creator of the universe. Two trained dancers enact the main parts, with Bhaskar Roy Chowdury playing god.
Roy Chowdhury was a choreographer who ran a dance company in New York City. The colourful set replicates an Indian jungle, with a peacock and a doe symbolically representing the man and the woman. The dancers are attired in bright costumes and perform in a fusion style, incorporating Kathakali, Bharatnatyam, Kathak and Manipuri. Chowdhury wears a bejewelled head dress that is exotic as his dance is hypnotic, recalling the famous Korla Pandit.