Politician Aarti Devi is locked in a tense election battle with her opponent Chandrasen. Her political aides ask her to come to the city to help combat Chandrasen’s tactics. For this purpose a hotel is selected for her stay in the city. The hotel’s manger J.K. is strongly affected by the news of her arrival. J.K. takes great care in making the arrangements for her stay, but refrains from meeting her. We learn through his conversation with his servant Binda Kaka that they have a shared past, although its precise nature is only hinted at.
J.K.’s presence in the hotel does not stay a secret to Aarti for long. When they do meet, we learn of their history through a series of flashbacks. Aarti is the daughter of a wealthy businessman K. Bose, who for selfish reasons wanted Aarti to enter politics. But Aarti was an idealist who wishes to enter politics to serve the people of the nation. At this juncture she met J.K. and the two fell for each other. Her father was opposed to their union. But a determined Aarti overrode her father and the two were married. The two enjoyed marital bliss for a while and also had a daughter. Aarti still harboured a desire to enter politics, but J.K. was vehemently against it. J.K. refused to respect her choice and gave her an ultimatum: political career would mean the end of their married life. A hurt Aarti nevertheless left to embark on her political journey and the two did not meet for the next ten years. When they meet again in the hotel they reminisce about their memories and start to rekindle their love for each other.
Meanwhile, the election race grows bitter between the competitors. Aarti Devi’s chief aide Lallu Lal plots to weaken Chandrasen by taking away the rich industrialist Aggarwal’s support from him. He manipulates Aggarwal to join the race himself thus taking away significant capital from Chandrasen’s campaign. But Chandrasen has managed to get photographs of Aarti Devi and J.K. together and tries to slander her by publishing them. The wily Lallu, on the other hand, has managed to trap Aggarwal between a rock and a hard place. Through his machinations, he has taken away the workers’ support from Aggarwal’s campaign and he has no choice left but to ask for Aarti Devi’s help. A meeting is organised between the two, set to take place in the hotel. But during the gathering J.K. overhears Aggarwal making lecherous comments about Aarti Devi and berates him angrily. He also has an outburst against Aarti Devi for being unclear about what her exact relation is with him. The proposed alliance is immediately nixed and Aarti Devi’s prospects in the upcoming elections start looking grim.
At this stage, the restrained and respectful Aarti Devi decides to take action. She interrupts a gathering where Chandrasen is delivering a speech against her. In an impassioned speech she confesses to the people that she is indeed J.K.’s wife. She also declares that she is leaving politics to rejoin her family. A touched J.K. later asks her not to give up politics for his sake and to stay true to her beliefs.
Aarti Devi’s honesty turns the tide in her favour in the elections and she emerges victorious. J.K. accepts that she must go away to serve her political duties but this time they separate with the hopeful promise of a better future together.
After the film’s initial release, the film became mired in a political controversy over the alleged similarity of its protagonist to Indira Gandhi. The film alludes to this itself in a scene where Aarti Devi identifies Indira Gandhi as her ideal. But the director Gulzar denied that the character was inspired from Indira Gandhi. The film was banned till 1977 when it was allowed to be exhibited by the newly elected Janata Dal government.