Jagadish, a captain in the Indian Army, returns to Mumbai from Kashmir. On his arrival, his parents and younger sisters force him to see Nisha, who they choose for him to be married to. At the bride-viewing ceremony, Jagadish makes up excuses to avoid marrying her, which includes commenting about her being old-fashioned. On the contrary, Nisha is a college-level boxer, who is completely modern in her outlook. Jagadish realises this and proposes to her, which after initial refusal, she reciprocates.
One day, while travelling around the city with his police officer-friend Balaji, Jagadish witnesses the explosion of a bus in which they had travelled. He manages to capture the man who laid the bomb, but he escapes from the hospital where he was kept under custody. Jagadish kidnaps the bomber again, and also forces the police officer who helped the bomber's escape, to commit suicide. Jagadish soon learns that the bomber is a mere executor, a sleeper agent, whose only role was to plant the bomb. He also discovers that the Islamic terrorist group Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, which the bomber belongs to, has planned various such attacks in the city in a couple of days. Enlisting the help of his fellow army men and Balaji, Jagadish manages to thwart these attacks and kill the sleeper cell leader's brother and eleven other terrorists, including the previously captured sleeper agent.
When the leader of the terrorist group learns about the role of Jagdish in thwarting the terrorist attack, he begins to target the families of the army men, except Jagadish, by kidnapping someone close to them. When Jagadish realises the plan, he substitutes one of the people to be kidnapped, with his younger sister Sanjana. Using his pet dog and his sister's dupatta, he manages to reach the terrorists' hideout, rescuing his sister, who was about to be killed after Jagadish's bluff was exposed, and the other victims and eliminating the terrorists assembled there. Asif Ali, the second-in-command of the sleeper cells is captured and killed by Jagdish.
When the attack fails, the terrorist leader decides to target Jagadish himself. He kills Jagadish's friend and asks Jagadish to surrender to him or else there would be more terrorist attacks. Jagadish decides to sacrifice his life and devises a plan with his fellow army men. Jagadish meets the leader in a ship, which has been rigged with a bomb planted by Jagadish's friend. When he learns about the leader's plan of infiltrating the Indian Army with sleeper agents with the help of a traitor in the Indian Defense — Kameeruddin IAS, the current deputy secretary, Jagadish decides to abandon his suicidal plan. He mocks the leader and compels him to a fight before escaping in a boat, with the leader as hostage. After the ship explodes, he kills the bewildered leader. Jagadish confronts Kameeruddin and forces him to commit suicide, before returning to Kashmir along with his fellow army men.Vijay as Jagadish
Kajal Aggarwal as Nisha
Sathyan as Balaji
Vidyut Jammwal as the sleeper cell's unnamed leader
Jayaram as V. Ravichandran
In July 2011, it was reported that Vijay and AR Murugadoss would collaborate to make an action film, after completing their then-respective ongoing projects, Velayudham and 7aum Arivu. Vijay's father S. A. Chandrasekhar was initially going to produce the film, but S. Thanu took over the project, producing it under his banner V Creations. Although the film was initially titled Maalai Nerathu Mazhaithuli, in December 2011, the new title was revealed: Thuppakki. A. Sreekar Prasad, Thotta Tharani and Santosh Sivan were chosen for editing, art direction and cinematography, respectively.
Though Kingfisher Calendar model Angela Jonsson took part in a brief photoshoot with Vijay by Sivan in Chennai, Kajal Aggarwal was eventually confirmed as the female lead, while Akshara Gowda was cast in a special appearance. Gautham Kurup was chosen to play a sleeper cell, while Vidyut Jammwal, who was simultaneously shooting for Billa II, would be playing the main antagonist. Sathyan confirmed his participation in the film in January 2012, and Malayalam actor Jayaram confirmed his presence the following month. In April 2012, Murugadoss confirmed that he himself would appear onscreen. That was eventually revealed to be a cameo in the song "Google Google", where Sivan also cameoed. Dubai-based Malayali orthodontist Prasanth Nair was also signed to play a small but important role, making it his acting debut in Tamil cinema. Other supporting roles were played by Zakir Hussain, Manobala, Raneesh, Meenakshi, Shankar Narayanan, Deepthi Nambiar, Anupama Kumar, newcomer MD Asif, Sanjana, Mangala Radhakrishnan and Supriya.
Filming was supposed to start on 26 November 2011, but the first schedule began in January 2012, and lasted for 35 days. At Linking Road in Bandra, Mumbai, Vijay acted and operated the camera himself for one scene with cinematographer Santosh Sivan's assistance, which had to be filmed quickly with the unaware public. Sivan commented that it was shot perfectly and decided to retain it in the film. Sivan further told that a major part of the film was being shot in real locations with hidden cameras. He shot Thuppakki with an Arri Alexa camera, as opposed to traditional 35 mm film.
In March, the unit completed a 10-day shoot in Bangkok for "Google Google", picturised on Vijay and Aggarwal. In Mumbai, while Vijay was filming a sequence which involved him jumping from a height, he slipped and injured his knee; he was not wearing a knee-pad at the time. Shooting was stalled following the incident and Vijay left to London to undergo treatment. One of the film's songs was shot atop of a train, along with 300 dancers constructed by art director Sunil Babu. The dance sequence, choreographed by Shobi, was shot in the Mumbai Pune Expressway. Another song, "Vennilave" was shot in Switzerland; since Sivan was unable to give dates, Natarajan "Natty" Subramaniam shot it instead. The song "Antarctica" was shot at DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai, with which principal photography wrapped. The budget of the film was estimated to be ₹700 million (equivalent to ₹920 million or US$14 million in 2016).
Harris Jayaraj composed the soundtrack of Thuppakki, collaborating with Murugadoss for the third time after Ghajini (2005) and 7aum Arivu (2011). The lyrics were written by Na. Muthukumar, Viveka and Madhan Karky, who had written over 35 pallavis for one of the songs, with one being finalised. The party number "Google Google", a duet between Andrea Jeremiah and Vijay, marked the latter's return to playback singing after a seven-year sabbatical; his last song was "Vaadi Vaadi" from Sachein (2005). Though Harris Jayaraj had announced in August that Thuppakki's audio launch would take place the following month, the audio was eventually released on 10 October 2012.
Thuppakki was released on 13 November 2012, coinciding with Diwali day. The film released in more than 1500 screens, becoming the widest release for a Vijay film at that time.
Upon release, an Islamic group protested against the film, claiming that it portrayed Muslims as terrorists and traitors. Murugadoss, S. Thanu and Vijay's father S. A. Chandrasekhar later tendered an open apology to representatives of 23 different Muslim outfits, and agreed to delete the scenes to which objections were raised, after activists had gathered near Vijay's residence at Neelankarai and raised slogans against him and the film in Arabic and Urdu.
The distribution rights for Thuppakki in Tamil Nadu were bought by Gemini Film Circuit. Several distributors including Bellamkonda Suresh, Geetha Films and Suresh Films were competing for the Telugu dubbing rights, with SVR eventually purchasing the rights for ₹ 15 crore, the second highest in terms of obtaining the Telugu rights after Kamal Hasan's Dasavathaaram. ATMUS Entertainment had reportedly paid the highest price for a Vijay film to distribute the film in North America. It was distributed in France by BR Films International in more than 10 centres.
Thuppakki's first look poster was leaked on the internet on 30 April 2012, a day prior to its scheduled release on 1 May. The poster, that depicted Vijay holding a cigar in his mouth, was criticised by social activists for violating the Indian Tobacco Act, which prohibits advertising tobacco products. Murugadoss explained that it was only for promotional purposes and added that the film had no such scenes, claiming that even a small sequence featuring Vijay smoking had been deleted from the film.
In October 2012, another promotional poster, which depicted a police-uniform clad Vijay carrying Aggarwal on his hands was claimed to have been lifted from a poster of An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) which depicted its lead actor Richard Gere lifting actress Debra Winger. Murugadoss claimed that Thuppakki did not have an army backdrop like Gere's film but was set in Mumbai instead, going on to assert that everything in his film was original. He however admitted to have used the poster of An Officer and a Gentleman, and told The Hindu, "Sometimes, you admire something so much that sub-consciously it becomes a part of your work".
The makers confirmed that the film's first trailer would be released on 22 June, coinciding with Vijay's birthday. However, Murugadoss announced that the teaser was to be released on 1 July, ten days later. Upon progression, the teaser and poster launch event was delayed, following an injunction order from the court, which had directed the makers of the film not to use the Thuppakki title in any form. With the court case ending on 5 October, the first teaser was released in October 2012.
The broadcasting rights were purchased by STAR Vijay for ₹11 crore (US$1.7 million). Overseas DVD were marketed by Lotus Fivestar and Seyons TSK.
Thuppakki received mostly positive reviews from critics. L Romal M Singh of DNA India stated that the film "is different. The difference is visible in every shot, every dialogue spoken and the amazing attention to detail. What stands out most in this incredibly entertaining film is that Tamil films have finally come of age – in so many interesting ways". Deccan Chronicle rated it 3.5/5 and cited: "Thuppaki has come out as an action thriller that depends on mind games and smart plans rather than bloody fights. This is Murugados's film in its true sense and Vijay adds immense value to it by his performance". IBNLive named it a "well written Tamil film that engages the audience" and added that it had "the energy of Vijay and intellect of AR Murugadoss".
Manoj Kumar of International Business Times wrote: "Director AR Murugadoss makes sure that he does not regress with any of his films. He frequently comes out with a different plot and narration style, and "Thuppaki is a brilliant example of this". Sify's critic stated that Murugadoss "has made a complete entertainer that blends with Vijay's mass image, thanks to his racy script", calling it a "perfect Diwali entertainer". Sangeetha Devi Dundoo of The Hindu commented: "One of the first promos of the film, with snapshots of Mumbai, lurking terror, the antagonist threatening Vijay to which he responds 'I am waiting' went viral on social networks. The wait, clearly, has been worth it for the audience. And the man who's probably having the last laugh is Murugadoss". For the same newspaper, Karthik Subrmaniam wrote, "One can only wonder just how much better Thuppakki would have been if it had done away with the song-and-dance-and-romance and such trappings." Haricharan Pudipeddi of The New Indian Express said, "Most of the characters are made to look dumb as Vijay steals all the attention. Kajal's role as a boxer, which she squanders with her cliched performance, is definitely a turn off in the film. Jayaram and Sathyan, who're supposed to make us laugh, fail miserably in the process" and concluded, "In essence, "Thuppakki" has the energy of Vijay and intellect of A.R. Murugadoss".
J Hurtado of Twitch Film called the film's cinematography "astonishingly good" and added that, "Murugadoss and Vijay have never worked on a better-looking movie", but called the film "an enjoyable, though largely forgettable film". N. Venkateshwaran of The Times of India said, "Thuppakki will definitely be picked up by a big Bollywood star for a remake. For, the gun was bang on target". In contrast, Vivek Ramz from in.com rated it 3 out of 5 and said that it "doesn't meet the huge expectations it had created for itself", calling it "another regular commercial film which entertains in bits and pieces". Pavithra Srinivasan of Rediff rated the film 2.5 out of 5, saying "Vijay fans will find plenty to rejoice in this subdued avatar of their star, but audiences who seek intelligence in their movies will find it rather dull".India
On the opening day, Thuppakki netted around ₹92.5 million (US$1.4 million) in Tamil Nadu box office alone. It collected a sum of ₹456 million (US$7.1 million) in Tamil Nadu, and ₹653.2 million (US$10 million) worldwide by its first week. In Chennai city alone, the film netted ₹48.3 million (US$750,000) in its first week with an average theatre occupancy of 99%. The second week witnessed an occupancy of 90% in the city and netted around ₹94.1 million (US$1.5 million) creating a new record for Vijay and taking a distributor share of ₹46.0 million (US$720,000) in 13 days. It still stood in the number one position by the third week resulting in a total collection of ₹113.6 million (US$1.8 million). After a long run for eight weeks at the Chennai box office, the film netted ₹134 million (US$2.1 million), the second highest figure among Tamil films.
Ten days after the release, Thuppakki was released in 31 screens in Mumbai. It was bought for a record price in Karnataka by a leading distributor, and opened well at the box office there. Thuppakki was released in 126 screens in Kerala and collected ₹40 million (US$620,000) in two days with a distributor share of ₹20 million (US$310,000), which is a record for any Tamil release. Many of the centres witnessed police charging before the shows and were forced to go for a fifth show on the first day which resulted in almost 600 shows in a single day: a record number of screenings for any film in the state. The film reached the ₹1 billion (US$16 million) mark in 11 days of its release. The film's total domestic box office collections at the end of its run stood at ₹1.8 billion according to distributors Eros International. International Business Times estimated the film to have earned ₹1.21 billion worldwide.Overseas
In its first weekend, Thuppakki earned £134,280 (₹ 11.8 million) at the UK Box office. The film has collected ₹ 50 lakh in the second weekend on 11 screens. The total collection of the film in the UK and Ireland region was ₹ 1.85 crore after the fourth weekend. In the US, the film collected $320,349 (₹ 17.6 million) on 36 screens for the first week. The per screen average stands at $8,899 (₹ 488,000) and the Telugu version earned ₹ 846,000 from nine screens. At the end of its second week, it once again topped the collection chart by adding ₹ 7.5 million to its 13-day total ₹ 2.51 crore ($4,52,734). In Australia, Thuppakki grossed A$80,264 (₹ 46,73,000) on six screens and the average per screen collection of the film stands out at A$1656 after two weeks. The film continued to do good business at the International box office in its second week. It performed well in Malaysia, where it grossed around ₹87.7 million (US$1.4 million) at the box office after three weeks.
Murugadoss remade the film in Hindi as Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty in 2014, starring Akshay Kumar in the leading role. Baba Yadav remade it in Bengali as Game: He Plays To Win the same year starring Jeet. The film was dubbed in Hindi as Indian Soldier Never on Holiday by Goldmines Telefilms.