CRD director Kranti Kanade has returned with a film that has considerably less meat on the bone. Like CRD, which audaciously explored the conflict between free expression and social control through a theatre competition, Peepal Tree is set in Pune – specifically the Aundh neighbourhood.

The green cover in Aundh is under threat from a formidable adversary. Kranti (played by Kranti Kanade), is outraged that trees planted on a ground in front of his house are being cut down by residents of the neighbouring police colony. His attempts to lodge a complaint leads into a bureaucratic maze. A seemingly futile battle breaks between tree huggers and tree hackers, filmed in a freewheeling style that includes handheld camerawork, naturalistic acting and seemingly improvised conversations.

Kranti’s mission is both heartfelt and mildly comical. “I announce the revolution of a single individual,” he says in English (the film also has dialogue in Marathi and Hindi). Vinay Sharma, the scary theatre director from CRD, has a cameo as an activist who shows Kranti the importance of a community.

The feeling that Peepal Tree is an extended short film is inescapable. The best moments in this exploration of the dynamics of a civic movement are all in the early bits, when Kranti declares that “The trees are being murdered!”

Peepal Tree gets more diffused and elliptical as it goes along. Perhaps this is how urban campaigns are: filled with energy in the beginning, only to eventually plateau.

Peepal Tree (2021).