Following Kaaka Kaaka in 2003, the director Gautham Menon and Surya Sivakumar expressed their desire to work together on a film. In early 2005, the pair got together for a film tentatively titled Chennaiyil Oru Mazhaikaalam which featured Asin Thottumkal in the lead role and Daniel Balaji in a supporting one. However, after a photo shoot, the film was delayed and then subsequently called off. Nevertheless, in 2006, producer Oscar Ravichandran signed up the pair for a new film, which they confirmed was not going to be a sequel of their previous venture; it was going to be a romantic thriller. Initially titles such as Naan Thaan and Udal Porul Aavi were considered for the project, but Menon announced the title was Vaaranam Aayiram, with the literal meaning of "the strength of a thousand elephants".
Before the start of shooting, technical crew members were signed up, and the shoot commenced without a leading lady on 24 November 2006 at a nightclub in Chennai. In 2007, it was announced that a 10-day shoot in Afghanistan would be followed by shooting in Malaysia, Russia and the United States of America. However, the film only completed a shoot at the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, USA, and shooting was not held in Afghanistan.
In November 2007, Gautham Menon decided to send the reels back to Chennai from San Francisco. Two of the production managers were assigned the task of bringing the reels to the producer's office. But they stayed in Singapore for a couple of days before returning to Chennai. Following their arrival, it was understood the reels went missing in the hotel they stayed in at Singapore, but a search by the police proved unsuccessful. The whole crew of Vaaranam Aayiram was in a fix as the reels held fight scenes, songs and other scenes worth $500,000. Soon after, the reels were found with the Singapore airport authorities. The film finished its shoot in August 2008.
A song was filmed by an assistant cameraman with a high-tech camera, costing about Rs. 1.5 crore, fastened to his hip. While the assistant was moving behind the actors canning the shots, he tripped unexpectedly and the camera broke to pieces. The shot resumed a day later with a similar camera.
Vaaranam Aayiram was believed to be based on the Dutch film by Mike van Diem, Character; others have claimed that it is inspired by the 1994 Hollywood film, Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks. Menon too admitted the film will draw inspirations from Forrest Gump but will be fixed to suit the Indian audience. Furthermore Menon stated that Surya Sivakumar will be seen playing the dual roles of a 21-year-old and his father and that the film will be society themed. It was set to release in 2007 and was delayed for a 14 November 2008 release. The audio of Vaaranam Aayiram was released on 24 September 2008. Menon has described the film as "autobiographical and a very personal story and if people didn’t know, that 70% of this is from my life". Suriya lost weight using capsules and prepared a six-pack for the film through an eight-month fitness regime.
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