The compelling docu-style film draws attention to environmental damage

Peepal Tree Story: A concerned family confronts the authorities when the Police Academy illegally cuts banyan and peepal trees outside their home. As they try to lodge an FIR to prevent the felling, they are shocked to learn that it’s a non-cognisable offence with no penal provision. They seek help from a Tree Activist who saves trees at all costs. Will they succeed in their mission?

Peepal Tree Review: The movie opens with a man (National Award-winning filmmaker Kranti Kanadé, credited as He) arguing with fellers as they chop old trees on the land adjacent to his home in Pune. Outraged and distressed at the thought of the harm this will do to the environment and lives, he and his family strive to get the authorities to stop the drive. But whether the municipal corporation or the police, the appeal turns into infuriating arguments. As the family uses logic, implores and even rebukes the authorities, they blame the trio for planting trees on government land without permission, which is illegal and encroachment. The moot point becomes how growing trees is unlawful but not killing them.

He and his wife, She (Eesha Thaker), approach the police to file an FIR. They argue that killing trees is like murdering people, as physicist and botanist Jagdish Chandra Bose proclaimed that the former breathe and feel just like humans. When the cops refuse to file an official complaint and inform them it’s a non-cognisable offence, He approaches Vinod Jain, a Tree Activist. At this point, the simple story turns more educative and revelatory. It talks about construction developers illegally cutting down trees, a lack of awareness about Indian laws protecting flora from being destroyed, and a glimpse of the evergrowing piles of PILs and RTIs against tree felling.

‘Peepal Tree’ talks about the pressing issue of deforestation and environmental damage that needs our immediate attention. The urgency is captured well through the earnestness that the family (especially He) displays. The distress is palpable throughout, particularly when He declares that if the authorities cut the old peepal tree, he will leave the city. Shot in documentary style with a handheld camera lends more authenticity to the movie based on actual events. Vital stats, facts and figures are seamlessly interspersed — about 400 acres of land globally losing trees to felling every minute, the Protection and Prevention of Trees Act 1975, and other laws that one needs to be aware of to protest against the act.

While the film makes a compelling argument and is a wake-up call, it seems disjointed in the narrative intermittently — like, a scene when He and She talk about moving to France or a gathering of like-minded people who meet up regularly to stop the tree-cutting drives. It was a treat in terms of the music, poetry and conversations, but a bit out of place given the film’s mood. Keeping the characters unnamed was a good touch as the couple becomes representative of all the ordinary and unknown citizens who will be equally affected.

‘Peepal Tree’ makes for a good watch that will have environmental enthusiasts nodding vigorously in agreement throughout. It may also stir others as it points out that chopping down trees is carnage that kills living beings like the family of mongooses on He’s land.

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