Principal photography commenced during the last week of May 2014 in Mysore. The majority of the filming took place in Ramoji Film City. The climax portions were filmed in Shimoga. The film was released on 12 December 2014, coinciding with Rajinikanth's birthday. The film was dubbed and released in Telugu and Hindi with same name. Though an above average grosser at the box office, the film failed to recover its high distribution cost.
A dam in the village of Solaiyur, which is the lifeline of that village is under assessment for structural integrity by the Public Works Department. The dam inspector (Ponvannan) assesses that the dam is still strong 75 years after it was built. Later that evening, he is hanged to death by the corrupt local MP Nagabhushan (Jagapathi Babu), who wants the dam destroyed for his own benefit. The dying dam inspector throws a pen drive containing details about the proposed plan to destroy the dam into an abandoned Shiva temple near the dam and warns the village head Karunakara (K. Viswanath) that the temple has to be opened as soon as possible, after which he passes away. Karunakara and the villagers are of the opinion that the temple can only be opened by the descendant of Raja Lingeswaran (Rajnikanth), who built the dam as well as the Shiva temple. Lakshmi (Anushka Shetty), the granddaughter of Karunakara and a television journalist, goes on a search to find the Raja's descendant. She soon manages to find the descendant, whose name is Lingeswaran aka Lingaa (Rajnikanth). Lingaa is the grandson of Raja Lingeswaran, but is a petty thief with his family having now fallen on hard times. He holds a grudge against his grandfather, feeling that he had brought down his family into poverty by squandering all his wealth and hence refuses to go with Lakshmi to Solaiyur. However, Lakshmi implicates Lingaa in a robbery, as a result of which the police pursue Lingaa. Lingaa is forced to accept Lakshmi's invitation to avoid getting caught and travels with her to Solaiyur.
At Solaiyur, Lingaa finds out that the Lingam installed at the Shiva temple is made of Maragatham stone (Emerald), which is extremely valuable, so at midnight, he enters the Shiva temple with the intention to steal the Lingam. But he is noticed by one of the dam's security guards named Riazuddin Rony from Noakhali, who immediately alerts all the villagers including Lakshmi, Karunakara and Nagabhushan, to the temple courtyard. Aware of the villagers' presence, Lingaa pretends to perform pooja to the Lingam. This fools the villagers, who find it auspicious that the grandson of Raja Lingeswaran is performing pooja to the Shiva Lingam installed at the temple built by the Raja at on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri. Karunakara then tells everyone present, including Lingaa, the story of Raja Lingeswaran.
Raja Lingeswaran, the very rich ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Kodiyur, best civil engineer from Cambridge and a civil services officer. He becomes the collector of Madurai district, and arrives at Solaiyur village. There the people tell him that they have no water for 9 months per year, and the other 3 months they have heavy rainfall and floods. They are unable to store water and the resulting famines cause hundreds of deaths every year. Though the collector applies to construct a dam, his plan is rejected in the annual collectors' meeting and he is forced to approve a new railroad from Tuticorin to Kochi through Madurai for goods. He refuses to do so and is blackmailed that he will be fired. He immediately resigns his job and exits.
He invites the provincial governor to his birthday dinner and cunningly gets approval from him, on condition that the dam will be built using his own finance. Though he faces multiple difficulties, the dam is nearly constructed, except for the shaft doors. The doors are being held in custody by the new collector as stolen goods and the floods are soon to occur. The new collector proposes that the king gives him all his property as bribe and all credit of constructing the dam goes to him and British government. The king with whole heart does so. The dam is fully constructed in 1939 at Solaiyur to solve the water problems of that village. The British lied to the villagers that the Raja was a British spy who would hand over the dam and all the villagers' lands to the British once the dam was completed. The irate villagers threw the Raja out of Solaiyur. Later, the villagers realised the Raja's true intentions and after a search found him and his wife Bharathi (Sonakshi Sinha) living in poverty. After unsuccessfully trying to convince the Raja to return to Solaiyur, the villagers decided to keep the Shiva temple which was built along with the dam closed until the Raja or his descendants returned to the village. Lingaa, on hearing the Raja's story, changes his opinion about his grandfather and decides to mend his ways.
Later, Lingaa and Lakshmi, through the pen drive hidden at the Shiva temple, find out about Nagabhushan's evil plans to destroy the dam. They manage to expose him in front of all the villagers in the climax. The movie ends with Lingaa and Lakshmi, who are now in love with each other, leaving Solaiyur, with Lingaa deciding to return once he has done something good in life like his grandfather.
The script as well as screenplay for Lingaa were penned by Pon Kumaran, who had registered the story with the South Indian Film Writers' Association under the title King Khan in 2010. He had also penned the dialogues for the film. The pre-production works began in March 2014. The following month, Ravikumar stated on Facebook that filming would commence soon and that the film was titled Lingaa. Eros International was confirmed to distribute the film worldwide. Rockline Venkatesh was announced as producer. A. R. Rahman was roped in as the music composer for the film and R. Rathnavelu as the cinematographer. Sabu Cyril was confirmed to handle the art direction for the film. Samjith Mhd, who had worked with Ravikumar earlier in Policegiri (2013), was confirmed as the film's editor. Hollywood stuntman Lee Whittaker was recruited to frame the stunt sequences. During the audio launch of the film's soundtrack album, Ravikumar said the title Lingaa was suggested to him by Rajinikanth. Director Ameer earlier had the rights to the title for his next project but handed over the rights to Ravikumar for Rajinikanth.
In April 2014, Shriya Saran and Samantha Ruth Prabu were selected to play the role of Lakshmi and Bharathi.But later both of them went out due to date issues.Then Sonakshi Sinha confirmed her involvement in the project for the role of Bharati and Hansika Motwani was signed for the role of Lakshmi..Then Hansika Motwani came out of the project due to date issues. In late April 2014, Telugu actor Jagapati Babu confirmed on his Facebook page that he was signed on for a role in the film. Sudeep was reported to have refused an important role in the film, but he however denied being approached for the film in the first place. Further, reports circulated again in August 2014 which strongly suggested Sudeep was a part of the cast as he was seen during the canning of the climax portions but he clarified that he wasn't offered a role in the film yet. Comedian Santhanam joined the team in May 2014. Actors Radha Ravi, Vijayakumar and R. Sundarrajan were called up to play important roles in the film.
British actress Lauren J. Irwin was selected to appear in the pre-independence portions of the film. American actor, director and writer William Orendorff was selected to play a key role in the film and furthermore, confirming his involvement in the project through Twitter. Anushka Shetty was roped as another heroine and she joined the unit on 27 June 2014. Sonakshi Sinha, in an interview with Mumbai Mirror, said that there are two different tracks of filming scenes, and that Anushka Shetty and her will not share much screen space and was given liberty to pick up the role she felt suitable for her. In June 2014, actor Karunakaran was selected to play a supporting role. Actor Dev Gill was selected to play a secondary antagonist role. Director and comedian Manobala confirmed that he would appear in a small yet significant role as a train driver. Comedian Brahmanandam was selected to portray the role of a police officer. Actresses Trisha Krishnan and Nayanthara were rumored to perform an item number, but the latter's inclusion remained unconfirmed and the former denied the news saying that she was never approached.
Principal photography commenced on 1 May 2014 in Mysuru, Karnataka, India, with a customary Puja ceremony. Rajinikanth and Sonakshi Sinha took part in the shoot. The muhurat shot of the movie was filmed in May 2014 at the Chamundeshwari Temple in Mysuru. Cinematographer R. Rathnavelu revealed that filming would be done using a Red Dragon 6K camera. In addition to this, the Phantom Flex 4K camera was used for filming action sequences. The film crew shot in various locations in Karnataka like Melukote, Manuvana, Pandavapura, Chamundi Hills and inside the residential portion of Mysore Palace. On 10 May 2014, Sonakshi had completed her portions for the first schedule of the film's shooting. On 18 May 2014, Rajinikanth and Sonakshi Sinha shot some scenes dating back to the British era in front of the illuminated residential portion of the palace. Horses were used for the shot. Over 50 policemen and 30 bouncers had been deployed to prevent people from getting near the shooting area in Mysore.
The team then moved to Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad for a two-month schedule, where sequences featuring the entire cast were shot for 50 days. A song sequence featuring Rajinikanth and Anushka was shot at Annapurna Studios, wherein the production team had designed a huge set for the song. On 13 July 2014, actress Sonakshi Sinha completed her filming schedule in Hyderabad. The Hyderabad schedule ended on 30 July 2014. During the Hyderabad schedule of the film, news circulated that Rajinikanth fainted on the sets while filming a heavy action sequence but Ravikumar denied this, citing that the actor was healthy.
In early August 2014, the team shot some scenes near the Radisson Hotel in Chennai, with Anushka Shetty in the frame. In mid-August 2014, the production unit confirmed that 80% of the filming was completed. Filming then moved to Thirthahalli and the Jog Falls, where some important scenes were canned for twenty-five days. For the film's climax, a big statue of Lord Shiva and dam both as set were constructed next to the Jog water-falls. Shooting also took place at the Linganamakki Dam. The film's climax requirements accounted for ₹10 million (US$160,000). In September 2014, the climax portion's filming was allotted ten days, confirming the shoot in Karnataka. On 22 September 2014, Whittaker confirmed that the climax portions of the film were completed with a stunt sequence choreographed by him. The film's shooting was wrapped up by 23 September 2014 except filming of two song sequences that were reported to be canned in Chennai and Scotland. Ravikumar stated that the climax scene, which involved a hot air balloon, was inspired by a sequence Armour of God (1986).
During the Hyderabad schedule of the film, some villagers of Anajpur village in Rangareddy district in Telangana had tried to halt the shooting of Lingaa, stating that some chemicals were mixed in the nearby lake during shoots, polluting local water. But the crew members stated that they had sought the permission of the irrigation department and the village Panchayat for shooting. The crew members also dismissed allegations of chemicals in the lake. During the shooting of the climax portions near the Linganamakki Dam, environmental organisations opposed the permission granted to the production unit for shooting, suggesting a threat to the location as public entry to the dam was prohibited. The organisations also had sent a petition to both the Deputy Collector's office and the Deputy Commissioner's office, who in turn, sent the petition to the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Siddaramaiah, for scrutinity. Regarding the same issue, officials of the Karnataka State Police Board also sent a letter to the Chief Minister asking him to end the shooting of the portions of the film there, citing that the bio-diversity and life in and around the dam would be affected. The elephants featured in the film were constructed through CGI, and a disclaimer was issued for this at the beginning of the film.
On 12 November 2014, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court bench's Justice M. Venugopal ordered a notice to producer 'Rockline' Venkatesh, script writer Pon Kumaran and director K.S. Ravikumar on account of accusations by the film maker K.R. Ravi Rathinam of the Tamil Nadu Housing Board colony who claimed that script of Lingaa was actually the one he had written for directing a movie titled "Mullai Vanam 999" based on the construction of the Mullaperiyar dam by John Pennycuick. Further, actor Rajinikanth who wasn't involved in the film script larceny was issued notice as he had distribution rights for the film. However, Justice M. Venugopal refused to pass any interim orders to hold audio release that is scheduled on 16 November 2014. On 3 December 2014, the court dismissed a writ petition filed by Ravi Rathinam. Justice Venugopal claimed the dispute to be private and it could have been solved only by initiating civil or criminal proceedings and not by invoking the writ jurisdiction of the High Court.
The film's worldwide distribution rights were sold for ₹135 crore (US$21 million). The distributors of Tamil Nadu suffered large losses and asked for their money back. A distributor under the banner Marina stated that it suffered losses in Trichy and Thanjavur areas and submitted a petition to go on a hunger strike. Vijayabhargavi Entertainers stated that they suffered losses in Chengalpet region. Capricorn Pictures incurred losses in North Arcot and South Arcot (Cuddalore-Villupuram) circles. Sukra Films and Chandrakala Movies lost money in Coimbatore and Tirunelveli-Tuticorin respectively. The distributors claimed that after 25 days of its release, Lingaa recovered only 30 percent of the down payment. Some theatre owners received settlements for their losses. Rajinikanth later refunded one-third of the ₹33 crore (US$5.1 million) loss reportedly incurred by distributors and exhibitors. He decided to pay them ₹10 crore (US$1.6 million) 'on a humanitarian basis', who demanded a full refund and had threatened a 'begging protest' in front of the actor's residence.
The soundtrack is composed by A. R. Rahman and was released on 16 November 2014.
Eros International had bought the film from Rockline Venkatesh for approximately ₹135 crore (US$21 million), which includes theatrical and overseas rights for all languages. The satellite rights of the film were purchased by Jaya TV for ₹32 crore (US$5.0 million).
The film was released worldwide on an estimated 5500 screens.
The motion poster of the film was released on Ganesh Chaturthi , on 29 August 2014. The first poster featured Rajinikanth walking with a temple being shown in the poster's backdrop. A teaser for the film was released on 1 November 2014. The trailer was released on 16 November 2014 at the movie's audio launch. A 40-second song teaser of "Mona Gasolina" featuring Rajinikanth and Anushka Shetty was released on 17 November 2014. A second 40-second song teaser was released on 18 November 2014 of the song "En Mannavva" featuring Rajinikanth and Sonakshi Sinha.
M Suganth of The Times of India gave 2.5 out of 5 and wrote, "The scale of the production, some of Santhanam's one-liners and the charisma of Rajinikanth somewhat make it bearable but they aren't enough." Behindwoods rated the film 2.5 out of 5 and stated, "Rajinikanth's mesmerizing energy let down by writing. But give it your time for Superstar's non-diminishing charisma." Rediff rated 3 out of 5 and felt that "Lingaa is buffoonery at its most old-school". Sify called Lingaa "a mixed bag. The star charisma of Rajinikanth is intact but the film is long with a weak storyline that flounders with a long drawn out climax." The Hindustan Times said "Lingaa offers nothing new despite being one of Rajinikanth's better works in the recent past." Oneindia.in rated it 3 out of 5, calling it a "Typical Rajinikanth movie" and stating "KS Ravikumar's story telling skills induces a fresh dimension to the movie. CNN-IBN also rated it 3 out of 5, commenting "Because two Rajinikanths are always better than one".
Lingaa had the largest opening day for a South Indian film as it earned ₹22 crore (US$3.4 million) nett in India and grossed ₹33 crore (US$5.1 million) worldwide. The film also set records on its opening weekend; it earned ₹51.5 crore (US$8.0 million) nett in India and grossed ₹89 crore (US$14 million) worldwide. After its second weekend, the film's domestic total reached ₹120 crore (US$19 million) nett.