Nimtoh (2019) aka Invitation is a Nepali film that was screened at the Cannes Film Festival 2019 and was made available online by ICAF.
Tashi is a 10-year old boy living with his grandma in the outhouse of a small farm in a village near Darjeeling. His grandma is a servant taking care of the cardamom orchard, Tashi does the odd-jobs around when he is not going to school. The film starts with the duo making noise in the night to scare off the wild animals that come inside the farm. In that first five minutes, we are transported to the thick night inside the forest region. The farm owner’s son is getting married in a hurried wedding and Tashi is tasked to handover invitations to everyone in the village, which he does in his own style. All along Tashi wonders with his grandma whether he will be invited for the wedding.
The charm of the film by Director Saurav Rai, who has acted as the bridegroom, is the effortlessness with which the screenplay moves. There are no detailed scenes or dialogues explaining what is happening – we are left to infer the narration – which is indirect with brief clues but we are able to follow along, thanks to the excellent expressions by the young Pravesh Gurung who comes as Tashi. In the scene where Tashi joins the owner in the living room to watch TV, the owner keeps changing the channel to irritate Tashi. The alternate expressions of happiness when a movie channel comes and disappointment when a news channel comes, in the face of Tashi, was priceless.
The characters were nuanced and had a lot of variety, the owner being rude, while his wife is kind towards the grandma and Tashi, their son the bridegroom taking a liking to Tashi to gift him a mobile phone and speakers. Near the end, as Tashi is leaving the farm he feeds the pig and shows the empty container to prove to the pig that he has indeed poured everything, a nice touch!
Movies like these show that cinema is not only entertainment but a chance for the audience to experience the lives of ordinary people in remote locations that we won’t get to meet.