The 2004 Telugu mythological fantasy thriller film, Anji, starring Chiranjeevi and Namratha Shirodkar in lead roles was produced by Shyam Prasad Reddy and directed by Kodi Ramakrishna. The story of the film is about Aatmalingam which can make people younger for eternity with supernatural powers.
The first half of the film is inspired from Romancing the stone with several scenes and sequences similar to the film. The entire track of female lead is based on Romancing the stone. The climax sequence and some scenes are inspired from Indiana Jones and the last crusade. Although majority of the film is based on these 2 films, the original theme and scenes are much better than copied sequences. The film would have become a remarkable movie if they have developed original story instead of lifting off scenes from other movies.
Chiranjeevi plays the role of Anji, a good Samaritan in Uravakonda forest area, who serves Sivanna. Anji leads a simple life without any worries or ambitions. He follows the orders of Sivanna and their relationship is much similar to Lakshmana and Rama. Anji protects Sivanna and 4 other orphans raised by him. When Sivanna gets killed, Anji wanted to take revenge on Bhatia, but he couldn’t as Bhatia takes kids as hostages. The character of Anji is linear without any flaws or motives. He just follows the story that is driven by other characters.
Sivanna is an ayurvedic specialist who provides medicines for locals in Uravakonda forest area and protects the forest from poachers. He is a risktaker and considers Anji as his strength. Sivanna selflessly serves the local people and rejects Billions offered by Bhatia. He doesn’t bother much about himself and takes decisions that are good for others. His character remains same throughout the film and doesn’t change.
Swapna is a student of a professor researching on Aatmalingam. She travels from USA to India sensing danger to her professor. Her character is just a troublemaker with literally no character development.
Bhatia drives the story as he is ambitious about Aatmalingam while other characters don’t know much about it. He is a typical bad guy who wants to be immortal and powerful. His character is cliched as he stays in USA and returns to India just before 3 days for something he has been waiting for his whole life. Moreover, he kills a Professor whom he needs. Additionally, he doesn’t know about the inscriptions required to enter the temple although he got hold of the Aatmalingam 72 years ago. All these things highlight the broken links in his version of the story.
Guruji is a smuggler who wants to get hold of the forest. Sivanna and Anji stop him from poaching and smuggling, so he wants to get rid of them. He lacks intellect and is content with the resources of the forest which is evident as he rejects money offered by Bhatia and asks for control over the forest.
There are 3 major tracks in the story: Bhatia, Professor-Swapna and Anji-Sivanna-Guruji. The primary story is of Bhatia whose life ambition is to acquire Aatmalingam. The Professor is a key character who works his whole life about Aatmalingam, and Swapna is his student who gets hold of his diary which contains information related to his research. Anji and Sivanna live in Uravakonda forest area providing medicines for locals and protecting forest from the smuggler Guruji.
The story follows young Bhatia who fails to acquire Aatmalingam. After 72 years, Anji is a selfless and simple guy who serves the revered Sivanna. After her Professor hands her over his diary, Swapna travels to India in search of him. Anji accompanies her to Uravakonda where she finds the dead body of her Professor. The smuggler Guruji beats Anji throws him into a valley as he wants to get rid of Anji and Sivanna to control the forest. However, Anji finds the Aatmalingam and returns to his village.
Sivanna suggests him to get inscription from an old temple to know more about Aatmalingam. After Anji gets inscription, Bhatia offers him money in exchange for both Aatmalingam and inscription. He leaves as Anji and Sivanna reject his offer. Guruji helps him in killing Sivanna and fetching Aatmalingam while inscription is not available. Anji kills Guruji but Bhatia seeks his help while holding kids as hostages. Anji initially helps Bhatia but later kills him.
The titles and opening sequence are great as they establish the film properly. However, the film loses its pace as soon as the protagonist enters and nothing serious happens until interval. Even then, it’s the antagonist Bhatia that drives the story forward which is a major flaw in the script. The romance between the lead pair is non-existent. So, 3 out of 6 songs are special songs. Moreover, the placement of songs is poor as some songs appear out of nowhere. The climax is abrupt and the film ends without proper climax. The henchmen of Bhatia disappear after Anji returns from the temple. The story could have been a lot better with good character development.
The protagonist lacks any motives which spoiled the scope of character driven story. Even with multiple antagonists, the plot lacks conflicts which makes it uninteresting several times. There are not many twists and turns to engage the audience. The placement of songs is poor which results in displaced songs. Moreover, there is no chemistry or romance between the lead pair. The Editing is bad which makes objects disappear in some scenes and disorient audience in some others. The VFX based scenes form the core of the film. So, most other scenes appear to be fillers to complete the film. However, some VFX shots are too dark and some others have weird backgrounds which may or may not have been intentional.
Anji is a film with a lot of potential but poor screenplay spoiled it. This would have been a remarkable film if the script is developed organically instead of fetching scenes from other movies which didn’t fit the narrative.