There was a time Pranjali Bhave could not have pointed out Ireland on a world map. But life works in mysterious ways. Bhave is now settled in Ireland with her Irish husband and spent most of 2015 working on an audio documentary about how a 1916 uprising in Ireland – popularly referred to as the Easter Rising – against British rule inspired one in India.

On the centenary of the Irish rebellion, RTE, Ireland’s national television and radio broadcaster, is hosting on its website Bhave's 42-minute audio documentary, An Easter Re-Rising, until April 9.

The Irish effect

Thirteen years ago, when Bhave broke the news of her Irish boyfriend to her Hindu nationalist grandfather, she was surprised to see he wasn’t upset in the least. Instead, he smiled. That was when he told her about the rebellion staged on Easter Sunday in 1916 in Dublin. It was the first time she had ever heard of the rebellion, which the British brutally crushed within six days but which marked a pivotal point in the Irish quest for independence that was finally granted in 1921.

Bhave’s grandfather went on to tell her how this rebellion was replicated in India in 1930 by a set of young revolutionaries, led by prominent freedom fighter Surya Sen, in Chittagong (now in Bangladesh). Easter meant little for Sen and his band of revolutionaries, but they drew inspiration from Irish Republican Armyman Dan Breen’s book, My Fight for Irish Freedom, which the British had banned in India in 1929.

In 2015, Bhave’s grandfather turned 89, and was in precarious health. That was when the filmmaker decided to make a special trip home to explore the Irish influence on Indian revolutionaries. Armed with a little microphone attached to a digital recorder, she started on a journey that would take her from Dublin to West Bengal in search of scholars and historians who would educate her on this piece of history. Her grandfather’s failing memory, unfortunately, meant that he couldn’t contribute to it.

The Chittagong rebellion that Bhave chronicles in her documentary marked the peak of an armed revolutionary movement in India by rebels who – disillusioned with Gandhi’s method of passive resistance, and in search of militant action – looked to Ireland for inspiration.

Bhave says that she loves stories. “I love it when a film, a radio documentary, a talk, a written article can connect the dots and give you the joy of seeing a picture emerge from it,” said Bhave. “I am in the field of making documentaries to be able to tell stories. The format is almost secondary."

Bhave spoke to about the process involved in the making of An Easter Re-Rising. Edited excerpts:

Why the audio format?
Radio is big in Ireland, where I live. Music is a very small part of their programming. Its a nation of storytellers, so it was a natural door for me to knock on. The audio format also came with the freedom and warmth of interacting with someone with just the help of a microphone. I think it definitely allows the interviewee to tell their personal story unselfconsciously and the bigger international story comprehensively.

What was the impact of the Easter Rising on the Indian revolution as a whole?
I think the Indian freedom fighters, who believed in the more militant path to Independence, drew a lot of inspiration from the Irish struggle. Irish revolutionary literature played a formative role in the life of many of our leaders, most significantly [freedom fighter] Subhash Chandra Bose, who had even visited Ireland in 1936 and called it the highlight of his European sojourn.

As you will hear in the documentary, many historians believe it was Bose’s Indian National Army – which was inspired by the Irish Republican Army – which ultimately succeeded in subverting the loyalties of Indian soldiers to the British administration and hastened the exit of the British rule from India. This is, of course, not trying to undermine the multiple set of factors that are at play in any national or international narrative, but highlighting one of the fascinating threads of that narrative that many people don't know about.

How does this event appear in Indian history textbooks?
I don't remember reading about Ireland in schoolbooks but I talked to university students of history recently in West Bengal and they were very much aware of the Irish influence on our Independence movement.

What was one of the more fascinating aspects of An Easter Re-Rising?
The fact is that the British also looked to Ireland for inspiration to control the growing unrest in Bengal where the Chittagong uprising had triggered a wave of militant actions against the British administration. They called upon the experience of Sir John Anderson, who had served as the under-secretary in Dublin during the Irish rebellion, and appointed him as the Governor of Bengal. Anderson was very keen not to repeat the mistakes in India that were made in Ireland in dealing with the rebels. But of course the unrest was never controlled.