"I can’t believe her story’s never been told by filmmakers.”
Freida Pinto is set to play British World War II spy Noor Inayat Khan in a new TV series.
Khan was the daughter of an Indian Sufi mystic who fought with the French resistance before being captured by the Gestapo and executed in Dachau concentration camp.
She was the first female radio operator to be sent to Nazi-occupied France.
Despite her capture, she never revealed anything and she subsequently aided the success of the allied landing on D-day.
Titled Spy Princess, it is an emotional thriller that will be directed by Anand Tucker and co-produced by Andy Paterson and Claire Ingham.
As well as portraying Khan, Freida Pinto is also the series’ executive producer. She described Khan as “a fierce and amazing woman, the most unlikely heroine of the second world war”.
The Slumdog Millionaire actress added: “Sending women to the frontline is controversial even now.
“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.”
Andy said: “It’s fabulous, in terms of diversity, to find proper, wonderful stories that take you there without contrivance.
“She was an amazing character. I can’t believe her story’s never been told by filmmakers.”
The series is written by Olivia Hetreed and is based on the book Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu, who is a consultant to the series.
Olivia said: “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.”
“Noor has a quiet strength that she’s not entirely aware of.”
“Alone in Paris, she lives and loves more intensely in a few months than most of us do in a lifetime, helping establish the ‘secret armies’ of the resistance who will rise up on D-day, astonishing the men who said she should never have been sent to the frontline.”
Anand added: “Olivia has created a spy thriller, a love story and a search for identity, the true story of a remarkable and complex woman doing the most dangerous job imaginable.
“Our series challenges ideas of heroism and the portrayal of Asian women on screen – often victims, sometimes terrorists – never the hero.”
On the TV series, biographer Arthur Magida said: “Noor’s story is extraordinary.
“She’s not a historical artefact, frozen in time. She’s immensely relevant to our time, just as she was to hers.”
The series makers are in discussions with broadcasters.