Sniff movie review: Amole Gupte recreates Stanley Ka Dabba magic in this film
Director: Amole Gupte
There are two things you can be assured of when you watch a film written and directed by Amole Gupte. The film-maker, who had us licking our lips after the tasty little Stanley Ka Dabba, manages to make food an indelible part of his latest film Sniff!!! too.
Behind the opening credits, cinematographer Manush Nandan places lush visuals of pots of spices, pans sizzling with lentils, melting butter oozing into hot parathas and pickles being bottled into jars.
Besides ensuring that you leave the theatre hungry, the second thing Gupte does incredibly well is working with a cast of young and amateur actors. The cast of Sniff!!! is largely made up of unprofessional actors – both young and old who populate protagonist Sunny’s (Khushmeet Gill) world.
Sunny is not a regular eight-year-old, because he was born with an olfactory nerve disorder, which means he does not have the ability to smell. His grandmother (played by Surekha Sikri) rues that this is a huge setback for a child born into a family whose primary business is making tangy pickles.
Being unable to smell comes with bigger problems for Sunny who doesn’t relish food, eating it perfunctorily, and also feels somewhat alienated in his classroom. He does have friends though – a delightfully precocious classmate, Adil, and two loyal buddies from his housing colony.
Gupte does not dwell much on Sunny’s family life, rather, most of the drama plays out in the school and in the colony, which is a hot-bed for all kinds of soap opera and intrigue. These spaces come alive for Sunny when one day, through a magical twist in fate in a Harry Potter-like dusty, cobwebbed laboratory, he suddenly gains a heightened sense of smell.
Not only can Sunny now smell everything, he can also sniff things out up to a distance of 2 km, we are told. The exactness of his cognisance and the near superpower are wonderfully illustrated by a guessing game played in school where the children line up to have Sunny deduce what they ate for dinner the previous night.
But when a car is stolen from the housing colony, Sunny and his friends turn into super sleuths, ingeniously rigging up the colony with a security system, setting up a den and embarking on a crime-solving escapade.
Gupte’s cinema is mostly filled with real and relatable characters, which is best seen in the building society meetings. The characters, their dialogues and their petty fights will connect with anyone who has lived in such a housing complex. The children, too, never look like they are acting, in particular Adil Majoo and Maahi Zaveri as Jiya, the building friend, standing out the most.
Though there is some amount of hamming (Sushmita Mukherjee as a rather dim-witted, but aggressive policewoman ACP Bashwati Mukherji, and Suresh Menon as the PT Teacher), it does not hamper the flow of the film. A couple of the songs (a montage filmed on a pensive Sunny and a Ganpati aarti) do not add much value to the outcome in an otherwise tightly woven, 90-minute caper. The detective work by the children might remind adults of a certain vintage of Enid Blyton’s adventure books.
As far as origin stories go, Sniff!!! checks all the boxes. It establishes Sunny’s super-skill, his gang and, when his zealousness misguides him, he is also given the opportunity to course-correct. Designed as the first in a series, the pleasantly entertaining Sniff!!! is aimed at a young audience that will surely enjoy the adventures of Sunny and his super-nose.