After completing Quartet, Merchant and Ivory returned to India, where they prepared two movies during 1981-82. The more modestly scaled, and the first to be released (in January 1983), was the 73-minute documentary (or "docudrama," as Merchant refers to it) The Courtesans of Bombay, which was both produced and directed by Merchant. (The other was Heat and Dust). Merchant first knew of the courtesans at an early age, he says, "from the visits from them we used to have during weddings at home, celebrations of childbirth, and other festivities. They provided the entertainment of singing and dancing, and I used to watch them." Then at the age of sixteen he was taken by school friends to Pavan Pool, an enclosed area of Bombay where the courtesans performed before a male audience, an experience that remained vividly in his memory and that he now wished to record on film.
Cast : Saeed Jaffrey, Zohra Segal, Kareem Samar, the performers and the people of Paval Pool.