The first sign that there was something off about Amole Gupte’s “Sniff!!!” came in the fifth minute of the film. After digging her fingers into a jar of pickle (a disconcerting sight for any pickle enthusiast), Sunny’s grandmother looks at him with pity and says something to the effect of, “We have a pickle factory. For us, not being able to smell is as good as not being able to see.”
There are so many things wrong with this sentence, but the worst part is that it comes in the beginning of a children’s film. In one stroke, she belittles her grandchild’s handicap (a problem with his olfactory nerve renders him unable to smell), undermines his confidence, and implies that the only path in life he can follow is to join the family business.
There is an initial pall of gloom over the film, complete with sad background music and a tear-jerking essay about the importance of a being able to smell – until Sunny (Khushmeet Gill) gets cured in a freak accident.
Our protagonist sneezes out a giant ball of mucus and his olfactory nerves are miraculously set ablaze – his sense of smell goes from zero to super sensitive. He can tell what you’ve had for dinner if he stands next to you, he knows the odour of an illicit affair by smelling the two parties involved, and even catches a thieving teacher by smelling a stolen wallet.
In short, he’s a sniffer dog in the form of a boy. When a spate of car robberies is reported in Mumbai, it is up to Sunny and his superhuman nose to sniff out the culprits.
But Gupte barely spends time on solving the mystery at hand. Instead, he spends an inordinate amount of time (in an 89-minute film) on scenes where residents of a housing colony are squabbling on petty issues. There are some lovely moments there, and perhaps there is a seed of an idea for a separate documentary on the great Indian housing society meeting. But “Sniff!!!” is not the place for it. Gupte also seems to have some leftover shots from his last film “Stanley Ka Dabba”, because we get unnecessary shots of food being plated, tiffin boxes being opened and whatnot, all of which take away from the main mystery.
The mystery itself is not very intriguing and dealt with in an amateurish fashion. You can see the red herrings a mile away. If this is going to be a children’s franchise film (which is what we are given to understand in the end), Sunny and his magical nose are going to have raise a much bigger stink than they did in “Sniff!!!”.