Even before seeing this PBS docudrama [[ASIN:B00NG0UX76 Enemy of the Reich]] I've been very interested in the subject of Noor Inayat Khan, the first female radio operator to be sent from Britain into Nazi-occupied France to aid the French Resistance.
Both being of Indian descent like Noor (though UNLIKE Noor, both my parents are from India) as well as having a lifelong interest in the "European Theater" of World War II, and especially the Holocaust, I've been fascinated by Noor Inayat Khan, ever since I found out about her.
Born in 1914 in St. Petersburg, Russia to an Indian father, and American mother, Noor Inayat Khan was raised in England and France as the eldest of four children. She grew up a creative, dreamy child, surrounded by brilliant minds and heavily influenced by her father's peaceful nature. Noor's father, Hazrat Inayat Khan, came from a noble Indian Muslim family -- Hazrat's mother was a descendant of the uncle of Tipu Sultan, the 18th-century ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore. Hazrat was the founder of The Sufi Order in the West in 1914 (London) and teacher of Universal Sufism. He initially came to the West as a Northern Indian classical musician, having received the honorific "Tansen" from the Nizam of Hyderabad, but he soon turned to the introduction and transmission of Sufi thought & practice, living in Europe as a musician and a teacher of Sufism. Noor's mother mother Ameena Begum (formerly Ora Meena Ray Baker) was an American from Albuquerque, New Mexico, who met Hazrat Inayat Khan during his travels in the United States. Ora Baker was the half-sister of American yogi and scholar Pierre Bernard, her guardian at the time she met Inayat and is also said to be related to Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science movement. After Hazrat Inayat Khan died in 1927 when Noor was just 13, she took on the responsibility for caring for her grief-stricken mother and her younger siblings. As a young girl, she was described as quiet, shy, sensitive, and dreamy, she studied child psychology at the Sorbonne and music at the Paris Conservatory under Nadia Boulanger, composing for harp and piano. She began a career writing poetry and children's stories and became a regular contributor to children's magazines and French radio. In 1939 her book, [[ASIN:0892813237 Twenty Jataka Tales]] (ISBN 978-0892813230), inspired by the Jataka tales of Buddhist tradition, was published in London.
After the outbreak of World War II when France was overrun by German troops, the family fled to Bordeaux and, from there by sea, to England, landing in Falmouth, Cornwall, on 22 June 1940. Although Noor & her siblings were were raised as pacifists in the Sufi traditions of her father, and Noor was deeply influenced by her father's pacifist/Sufi teachings, she was jolted by the violence that surrounded her and constantly drew on her father's lessons of peace and acceptance before deciding she had to take more drastic action, and she and her brother Vilayat decided to help defeat Nazi tyranny. Contrary of what you would think of an ethereal girl coming face to face with this war, she didn't shy away from it. She felt it was her duty to step up, so in November 1940, Noor joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and, as an Aircraftwoman 2nd Class, was sent to be trained as a wireless operator. Later, Noor Inayat Khan was recruited as an SOE (Special Operations Executive) agent for the F (France) Section, adopting the name "Nora Baker" during her training. In June 1943, she was sent into Nazi-occupied France to work in Paris as a British agent transmitting wireless/radio messages to help the Resistance.
When people think of World War II heroes, very few think of Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim woman in her late 20s who epitomized courage serving as a British secret agent in one of the most dangerous jobs a woman could have, as a wireless radio operator in Nazi-occupied Paris. But Noor Inayat Khan IS a hero, and when her entire operation was compromised, Ms. Khan was one of the last people left in her unit -- but she refused to back down or flee France to return to the safety of England and continued to gather & transmit information on the Nazi regime.
I'm not going to post any "spoilers" that says what happens (although anyone with the ability to Google or Wikipedia can easily find out, anyway!) but though this is a pretty good biographical docudrama about Noor Inayat Khan, it DEFINITELY could have been done better.
At a runtime of only 55 minutes, it was too rushed, and did NOT go into any kind of depth whatsoever into the life of Noor Inayat Khan. It was all just basic information, and aside from the interviews with her living relatives, there was nothing I learned from [[ASIN:B00NG0UX76 Enemy of the Reich]] that I hadn't already known before. Nothing new, that couldn't be gotten in half (or a larger fraction of) the time by Googling. I really wish that this film had gone into more detail about Noor's life, including and especially her time in Nazi-occupied France. The whole movie was just way too rushed and abrupt, almost like the producer's primary concern was just to finish the film and be done with it, rather than actually going into any detail and getting to the "meat" of her story and life.
Having said that though, this is still a pretty good film. The casting, including the narration of Helen Mirren, and especially the choice of Grace Srinivasan as Noor, is EXCELLENT!
Given that Noor Inayat Khan was born to an Indian father, and an American mother, I imagine it'd be pretty difficult to find an actress with the same ethnic background who resembles Noor as closely enough as possible. Yet they were able to accomplish that with the casting of Grace Srinivasan. A graduate of George Washington University (B.A. '13) Grace Srinivasan is the daughter of an Indian father and an American mother -- just like Noor Inayat Khan. Ms. Srinivasan said that while the film vividly depicts Ms. Khan's story, it is a documentary at its core. Historians contextualize the war and two of Ms. Khan's nephews are featured prominently--including one who has become a Sufi leader, similar to Ms. Khan's father, and enlightens the audience by talking about the spiritual teachings Ms. Khan learned as a girl.
"You get all the information that goes along with this beautifully shot, movie-like reenactment portion of the film. It balances well without being overwhelming, which makes it watchable," Ms. Srinivasan said.
Although Grace didn't know much about Noor's heroic life, once she'd done more research on Ms. Khan's bravery, she knew she wanted the part. "She was unbelievable. She was only in her 20s and by all accounts, she's this beautiful Indian woman who couldn't exactly blend in, but she kept radioing for as long as she could," Ms. Srinivasan said. "It's this fascinating story no one knows, and one that definitely needed to be told."
Which is especially why its so disappointing that the producers of this film didn't tell MORE. I would have liked to know a LOT more about Noor's early life, and her time in Nazi-occupied Paris and afterwards.
Unfortunately, this film neglected all that, just skating by on the surface information. For those just starting to learn about, and especially for those with just a topical interest in World War II, or SOE and the French Resistance, or even Noor Inayat Khan herself, then [[ASIN:B00NG0UX76 Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story]] is definitely a good place to BEGIN.
But for those like me, who already knew all the basics about Noor Inayat Khan, and were looking for MORE depth, this film was disappointing because with just a little more time and effort, it could have been a LOT better.
In my honest opinion, a good example of the lack of information in this film would be a comparison between the original 1950s film of [[ASIN:B001XJBE16 The Diary of Anne Frank]] with Millie Perkins which only focused on the period Anne & her family spent in hiding and little to nothing before, and nothing afterwards, as opposed to the 2001 miniseries [[ASIN:B00005LC5R Anne Frank - The Whole Story]] with Ben Kingsley & Hannah Taylor-Gordon, which not only showed Anne's life for a few years before the war and going into hiding as well as showed the last 7 months of her life in the concentration camps after Anne's "Secret Annexe" was raided, and she & the 7 other people in hiding with her (her family, the vanPels family, and Fritz Pfeffer) were arrested and with the exception of Otto Frank, Anne's father who was the only survivor from the Secret Annexe, were all deported to their deaths in the camps.
Basically this film is too short, and would have been much better if they'd been able to go into more depth & detail, by making it a regular 2 hour movie, instead of a 55 minute program!
☆☆☆☆ 4 STARS!!!!