Hollywood star Frieda Pinto will take on the role of British World War II spy Noor Inayat Khan in an upcoming television thriller. The six-part series, which will get into production later this year, hails from writer Olivia Hetreed and Red Room Films. It is based on the biography “Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan” (2006) by author Shrabani Basu and will be directed by London-based filmmaker Anand Tucker.
The screenplay, which will chronicle the incredible story of the young Sufi mystic-turned-war-heroine, has been devised as a spy thriller.
Khan, whose Indian heritage is traced back to the 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan, was born in Moscow in 1914 to Indian father Hazrat Inayat Khan and American mother Ora Ray Baker.
She was sent to Nazi-occupied France in 1943 as an undercover radio operator for Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE). But Khan was betrayed, arrested and killed in Dachau Concentration Camp at the age of 30.
“She was a fierce and amazing woman – the most unlikely heroine of World War II,” Pinto, who is also an executive producer on the project, said.
“Sending women to the front line is controversial even now. Then it was unthinkable. Sending a Sufi mystic, who won’t use a gun, daughter of a long-haired Indian Guru who preaches love and peace – ridiculous! But Noor thrives, not in spite of her differences, but because of them,” she added.
Basu, also the founding-chair of the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust, said she was happy that Khan’s inspiring story will be reaching an even bigger audience with the series.
“The beauty of a television series is that you can get into the story in depth. Noor lived for a brief 30 years, but her life and the choices she made, work at so many levels. I think it is just the sort of inspiring story that we need as we slowly come out of this pandemic and look for hope in the future,” said the author.
Red Room Films’ founder Claire Ingham pursued the story for screen after discovering a photograph of Noor in uniform. But it wasn’t until Basu’s book released that she was able to get more in-depth details and an intimate portrait of the brave spy.
“She had such charisma and presence – ‘Twice seen, never forgotten’ – and yet she was shy and sensitive.
“Her SOE trainers thought she was too dreamy and naïve to send to war, but she learned wireless operations at a faster rate than her male colleagues; and when she was sent undercover, lived by her wits – making a difference because she was different, with a different set of code references and life experiences to draw upon,” said Ingham.
He will serve as an executive producer alongside Hetreed and her Sympathetic Ink partner Andy Paterson.
“At a time when conflicts about race, identity and patriotism have a new and frightening energy, Noor’s character and her nail-biting story of hair’s-breadth escapes and life and death choices, offer us the picture of a heroine who defies every prejudice and stereotype,” said Hetreed.
The shooting schedule of the show will move between the UK, Europe and India.
The life story of Khan was most recently depicted in filmmaker Sarah Megan Thomas” “A Call to Spy”. Actor Radhika Apte portrayed Khan in the movie, which was released on Amazon Prime Video in December last year.