Many Mumbaikars would look upon the prospect of going through life without a sense of smell as a blessing, but it’s a condition that makes little Sunny Gill sad.
Sunny (Khushmeet Gill) is the eight-year-old protagonist of Sniff, an otherwise happy-go-lucky Sikh boy who is heartbroken that he has never been able to appreciate the myriad smells of spices in his family’s famed pickles, or that he can’t tell when he’s accidentally stepped in dog-poo and stunk up the classroom. Then a botched chemistry experiment ends up giving him super-strong smelling powers; he can literally catch a whiff of things from a mile away.

Stanley Ka Dabba director Amole Gupte has a way with kids, and gives us some charming scenes between his pint-sized hero and his friends. Children, in Gupte’s films, have distinct personalities and defining characteristics, unlike most Hindi films where they fall into one of two broad categories: precocious or cutesy. The kids in “Sniff” are bright, enterprising and yet innocent, and refreshingly neither Gupte nor the adult characters in the film patronize them.
Sunny uses his heightened sense of smell as a superpower of sorts, happily helping out neighbors with day-to-day domestic challenges. When a car in their suburban colony goes missing, he rounds up two of his friends and decides to investigate the incident.

It’s a slim idea, and unfortunately the script never feels adequately developed. The film also suffers from an identity crisis in that it seems confused about who it is intended for. Much of the humor, particularly the physical jokes, will appeal to a younger audience, but there’s a cheating husband, an abusive wife, dangerous criminals, and a scene of child torture that might have benefitted from some rethinking. There’s also a needless Ganesh aarti song that appears to have been inserted with the sole purpose of cashing in on the current festive spirit. These may be minor complaints, but they’re the reason this only 90-minute film still feels a tad stretched.

Sniff isn’t a terrible film by any accounts. Khushmeet Gill aka Sunny makes for a determined little detective and he’s good in the part. But there’s just not enough by way of a compelling plot to allow our young Sherlock to shine. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

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