Aayutha Ezhuthu

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Suriya, who made his debut in the 1997 Mani Ratnam production Nerukku Ner, revealed that he agreed "blindly" to star in the film without even listening to the story or his character. The actor revealed in an interview about Mani Ratnam's choice that "when the master calls for the student you just say “yes”. " Suriya stated that his character was based on a real person from Andhra Pradesh and to prepare, he read a lot of books and collected a lot of information before the shoot. Madhavan was signed on to appear in Mani Ratnam's fourth successive project after playing the lead roles in his Alaipayuthey (2000) and Kannathil Muthamittal (2002) as well as his 2001 production, Dumm Dumm Dumm. The actor bulked up and sported a shaven look for the first time in his career to resemble his character of a ruffian. Initially actor Vikram was considered to do the role of Madhavan, but unable to sign in due to his other commitments. For a third lead role, Mani Ratnam called Srikanth and requested him to audition for the project in December 2002. The actor had scored back-to-back successes in his first two films, Roja Koottam and April Madhathil, and was subsequently selected to be a part of the film. However, the actor soon after suffered an injury and was unable to commit to the dates Mani Ratnam suggested. Shaam was next approached for the role of Arjun, but date clashes with Iyarkai, meant that he was unable to sign the project. Karthi, the brother of Suriya, was then offered the role but declined the offer to make his debut and worked as an assistant director on the film because he wanted to become a film director and preferred directing to acting. Siddharth, who had previously apprenticed as an assistant director under Mani Ratnam in Kannathil Muthamittal before his making his acting debut in Shankar's Boys, was subsequently signed on for the film. Prior to release, Siddharth felt he was cast as he "looked, talked and behaved like Arjun" and mentioned that the sync sound technique used worked in favour of him as he was an experienced theatre actor. Veteran director Bharathiraja was signed on to play a politician in the film, while Sriman and Janagaraj were given supporting roles. Leading Kannada actor Sudeep was also initially slated to form a part of the cast after meeting Mani Ratnam for the script discussion, but was ultimately discarded from the film. Krishna and Suchitra, a singer and radio jockey, also were chosen to play the roles of student leaders in the film.