Preamble to the preamble: Yep, when I started this series last week, I promised to make it my #womancrushwednesday #wcw and not one full week later I almost missed a Wednesday. In my defense… Christmas.
Actual preamble: This series began last week with this post on Queen Nzinga (Nzinga Mbande, Dona Anna de Souza). It offers some suggestions for Hollywood if they ever get around to spotlighting any other female Royals than…you know the ones.
She’s Royal #2:
Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan (“the Indian princess”, “the spy princess”, Nora Baker, Madeleine)
Her Story: She didn’t occupy any throne but she is descended from Indian royalty (her great-great-great-grandfather was Tipu Sultan, 18th century ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore). Born in Russia in 1914 to an Indian father (a musician and Sufi teacher) and American mother, she was raised in London and France, and studied both medicine and music, and was also a published writer of children’s stories. In fact – a bit of trivia (from rejectedprincess.com) – the code name she used during her time as an operative, Madeleine, was from one of her stories and her radio encryption code was from one of her poems. She escaped to England shortly before the French surrender to Germany in 1940 and there joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as a wireless operator. Recruited to the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in 1942, she was the first female wireless operator sent in to Nazi-occupied France despite concerns about her suitability for fieldwork – a particular brand of field work with a life span of six weeks; she lasted four months. She stayed, even after infiltration was suspected, continuing to send intercepted radio messages back to England, single-handedly heading a cell of spies, frequently changing her appearance and alias, before being eventually exposed. In captivity, she was starved and beaten, and yet refused to give up any information. Two failed escape attempts had her branded “highly dangerous” and kept in shackles and in solitary confinement until her eventual execution (via gunshot after relentless beatings by the gestapo at Dachau concentration camp) in 1944. Per the BBC, her final word was “liberte”. She was 30 years old. She has posthumously been honoured with Britain’s George Cross and a statue in her honour in Gordon Square Gardens in London, and France’s Croix de Guerre, among other tributes. She’s been chronicled in books, documentaries, and docu-dramas, but I can’t find a feature film centering her; about time, I’d say.
Possible casting: I’ve cycled through Archie Panjabi (wrong age but great acting chops), and Frieda Pinto (right age range, a known Hollywood big screen entity) but I’m currently leaning toward Tina Desai whom I’ll admit I barely noticed among the star-studded line-up of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but I think her charming screen presence and the things demanded of her for her performance in the Wachowskis’ Netflix series Sense8 will translate well to a WWll espionage thriller with an Indian princess at its centre.