The trailer for World War II thriller A Call to Spy, featuring Radhika Apte as the Indian-origin British spy Noor Inayat Khan is out. Directed by Oscar-nominated director Lydia Dean Pilcher, the film is an ode to the unsung female heroes of World War II, especially the ones who were part of Churchill’s special spy agency. The film is inspired by true stories, and the screenplay draws on SOE (Special Operations Executive), OSS (Operations Support Systems), and CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) files. Written by Sarah Megan Thomas (who also stars as Virginia Hall), the film had its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June last year. It had also won awards at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the Whistler Film Festival. As per the trailer, A Call to Spy will release on 2 October in the US.
The trailer opens in London 1941, with Vera Atkins (Stana Katic) saying that, “Churchill has asked us to create a secret army of spies”. We are soon introduced to the heroines of the film, who apart from Atkins, are her new recruits—Sarah Megan Thomas’s Virginia Hall and Radhika Apte’s Noor Inayat Khan. These women are hired for what the British government felt (as a government officer himself tells us in the trailer) will be only a “rudimentary operation” and thus “women will be more inconspicuous”. Their job? To sabotage Nazi operations in France. Apte’s character, near the end of the trailer, sums up the entire operation quite accurately— “what we do while we’re here, changes the course of the future.”
Not only is the narrative centred on Winston Churchill’s female spies thrust into a bold mission, but the film’s production team is also dominated by women throughout. The trailer looks compelling, both in terms of what it is about and also how it looks. The plot is unique since this fascinating story has rarely been told in films before. It also seems from the trailer that A Call To Spy will be focusing on the characters instead of events, which is always a good way to go about war films.
The Real Woman Behind Apte’s Character: Noor Inayat Khan
Noor Inayat Khan was born to an Indian father and an American mother. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in 1940, and later joined Churchill’s spy agency as a radio operator. She went to France as an undercover spy and kept sending messages back to London while avoiding capture. The story goes that Khan was betrayed by a Frenchwoman, and that resulted in her capture. She even managed to escape from prison but was recaptured a few hours later.
Khan was later shifted to a prison in Germany. Despite repeated torture, it is said that she refused to reveal any information. She was then transferred to a concentration camp where she was finally shot dead. Her story, like that of many other women who took part in the war, went largely undocumented in history. Although there’s no denying that Khan, like her colleagues and fellow spies, left a remarkable legacy in their wake. And now, with such an ensemble cast portraying these spies, all that’s left to see how well A Call To Spy does justice to their legacy.
Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.