'Spy Princess': Freida Pinto to play Second World War spy Noor Inayat Khan in new limited series

Khan was credited for holding together the Paris resistance and awarded the George Cross

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23: Freida Pinto attends the UK Premiere of "LOVE SONIA" at Curzon Bloomsbury on January 23, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
Powered by automated translation

The story of Noor Inayat Khan, the Indian princess who worked as a British spy in the Second World War, will be told in a coming limited television series starring Slumdog Millionaire actress Freida Pinto.

Entitled Spy Princess, the series will be directed by Girl With A Pearl Earring filmmaker Anand Tucker. Screenwriter Olivia Hetreed has penned the script, based on the book Spy Princess, the Life of Noor Inayat Khan. The book's author, Shrabani Basu, will also serve as a consultant in the series.

This handout picture received from Shrabani Basu at the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial trust on November 8, 2012 shows late former British secret agent Noor Inayat Khan playing a Veena. A statue of Noor Inayat Khan was unveiled in Gordon Square Gardens, central London on November 8, 2012 in London, England by Princess Anne. Noor Inayat Khan worked as a radio operator for the Women's Auxiliary Air Force before being recruited by the Special Operations Executive as an agent, working behind enemy lines in Paris, France. She was eventually captured, tortured and beaten before being executed at Dachau Concentration Camp, aged 30.  ì RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT  " AFP PHOTO / Noor Inayat Khan Memorial trust/Shrabani Basu  "  -  NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS   -   DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS î (Photo by HO / Noor Inayat Khan Memorial trust / AFP)
British secret agent Noor Inayat Khan was the radio operator for the 'Prosper' resistance network in Paris during the Second World War. The network had the codename 'Madeleine'. AFP

In an Instagram post announcing the project, Pinto wrote that "at a time in this world where we are all looking for leadership and courage to guide and lead us all back to some semblance of sanity and order, I take great comfort in the quiet strength, grace, intelligence and grit that Noor Inayat Khan possessed in the face of chaos during WW2."

She described Khan as an underdog who was initially brushed off as “not overburdened with brains” but ended up being recruited to join the Special Operations Executive aiding the French resistance against the Nazi occupying forces.

The daughter of an Indian Sufi spiritual leader and direct descendant of the 18th century Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan, Khan became known as "Madeleine of the Resistance" and was credited for holding together the Paris resistance through some of the darkest hours of the war.

Assistant Section Officer Nora Inayat-Khan, who was awarded the George Cross posthumously. Miss Inayat-Khan, of the Women's Royal Air Force, was the first woman intelligence radio operator to be infiltrated into enemy-occupied France. She was captured by the Gestapo and shot at Dachau in September 1944, at the age of 30. Although constantly sought by the Germans, who knew her only by her code name 'Madeleine', she would not leave her post. She was the daughter of the late P M Inayat-Khan, Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Paris. Educated in France, Miss Inayat-Khan trained as a nurse. The award was received on her behalf by her sister Miss Claire Ray-Baker, accompanied by their brother, Mr Inayat Khan
Noor Inayat Khan was awarded the George Cross posthumously. PA

She was captured by the Gestapo during her mission but, despite being tortured for information, gave nothing away. She was eventually transferred to the Dachau concentration camp, where she was executed in 1944 at the age of 30. In 1949, she was posthumously awarded the George Cross, Britain’s highest civilian award for bravery.

According to online news site Deadline, the series's producer Claire Ingham, founder of the production company Red Room Films, initiated the project after discovering a photograph of Khan in uniform.

Pinto, who also serves as an executive producer in the series, told Deadline that she was thrilled for the opportunity to play Khan, who she described as "a fierce and amazing woman, the most unlikely heroine of World War II."

“Sending women to the front line is controversial even now,” Pinto said. “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. Her struggle to reconcile her values with the desire to find her own path and with her complex sense of duty is something I am so excited to explore and to recreate.”