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NEW DELHI – The remarkable real-life story of a World War II female spy – born to an American mother and an Indian Muslim father – is set for a big screen adaptation. Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by London-based Indian journalist-turned-author/historian Shrabani Basu has been optioned by LA-Mumbai based film-makers Zafar Hai and Tabrez Noorani for an undisclosed amount. Hai is renowned for his award-winning work in India and overseas on numerous TV commercials, corporate image films, and documentaries. His feature credits include Merchant Ivory Productions’ The Perfect Murder starring acclaimed Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah and Stellan Skarsgård.
Hai’s nephew Noorani runs well-known production services company India Take One Productions which has handled line production for various high-profile international features and commercials filmed in India. These include Slumdog Millionaire – for which Noorani served as line producer – and projects such as Oliver Stone’s Alexander, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi and Kathryn Bigelow’s upcoming controversial thriller about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty (which was partly filmed in India).
Published by U.K.-based The History Press in 2006, Spy Princess is Basu’s second book and tells the remarkable story of a heroic woman, Noor Inayat Khan, code named “Madeleine.” Trained by Britain’s Special Operations Executive, she was the first female wireless operator to be flown into occupied France during WWII and infiltrated into Paris. Within days of her arrival almost her entire circuit was arrested by the Gestapo, making ‘poste-Madeleine’ the last radio link between France and England. The book details Noor’s life from her birth in 1914 in Moscow to an American mother and an Indian Muslim father who founded the first Sufi Order in the West, through to her death at the hands of the Gestapo in 1944.
Basu’s third book, Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant was optioned by Working Title last year.
“This is a great story spanning across cultures. As producers, our first priority is to lock an established screenwriter from the U.K. for which we are already in talks,” Hai told THR. “We hope to finalize this by November after which we will look at potential directors and cast members.”
Meanwhile, on 8 Nov., a statue commemorating Noor Inayat Khan will be unveiled in London by Princess Anne.
Noorani and Hai are represented by LA-based Julia Scott of law firm Rufus-Isaacs, Acland & Grantham, LLP.
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Academy Museum of Motion Pictures