Bollywood actress Radhika Apte is seen in her first foreign project A Call To Spy in the role of Noor Inayat Khan, the princess who spied for Britain during World War II. A descendant of Tipu Sultan of Mysore, she is hailed as one of the bravest women to ever live. She was recently awarded in the UK in Aug 2020 with the Blue Plaque. With this, she became the first woman from India to receive the award. Here’s what you have to know about her.
Noor was born in 1914 to Inayat Khan’s father, who was both a musician and a Sufi preacher, and Amina Begum’s mother, an American (original name: Ora Ray Baker). Her parents, who used to live in Europe at the time, met in the US during her father’s trip to the world. However, following the start of the First World War, they both moved from Russia to England.
In 1920, the family moved to Paris, France again, where she stayed until the age of 26. She took care of her mother and younger siblings after the death of her father in 1927. At the time, she was 13 years old. There, she studied psychology for children and music. She wrote poetry and children’s stories at the beginning of her career.
France was occupied by German forces during the Second World War, so she fled to England along with her family. She wanted to help fight the Nazis, along with her brother Vilayat, and thus joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in 1940 (WAAF). She was sent to be qualified as a wireless operator as an Aircraftwoman 2nd Class. A year later, in order to relieve herself of the tedious work there, she demanded an intelligence commission.
She was recruited in 1943 to join the Special Operations Executive’s F (France) Section. As she was fluent in French, she was great for the work. Under the code name Madeleine, she was sent to France, and thus she became the first woman wireless operator to be sent to France. In France, she worked under the name of Jeanne-Marie Renier as a children’s nurse.
Several spies from her network named Prosper were arrested just days after she was sent there. She excelled at her work for the next few months. She was, however, betrayed by a French woman and sent to a concentration camp in Dachau, where she was tortured for nearly 10 months until she was executed in 1944.
Noor was awarded the French Croix de Guerre in 1946, a military honor bestowed by France. She was awarded the George Cross in 1949, which is the highest civilian decoration in the UK.
Her contributions came to the fore only after the writer Shrabani Basu published her biography, Spy Princess, in 2006. A decade ago, Shyam Benegal wanted to adapt the book for the big screen, but for the reasons best known to him, it did not happen.
Now on Amazon Prime, a film based on her life story, a biopic, has been released. Indian actress Radhika Apte stars in the lead role in the film. Below you can watch the teaser.
For all her contributions and sacrifices as a Special Operations Executive (SOE) in France, she was awarded the Blue Plaque this year.