Shankar is a poor man who lives in a village with his widowed mother and makes mud toys for a living. He is close to Paro and her young niece of the same age, Pushpa. Paro is the half-sister of Lala Jagat Narayan, a kind man with a cantankerous wife who hates Paro. Though Jagat Narayan is also of a meagre income, he comes into an unexpected windfall when a distant relative leaves him an inheritance. Soon, he has bought land, built a large mansion and hired a tutor for the two young girls.
Meanwhile, it is revealed that Shankar is an alcoholic, and his mother does not trust him with money, fearing rightly that he will spend it all on intoxicants. Though he is a compassionate, sensitive man, Shankar is troubled by his own circumstances and that of other helpless, destitute people in the village. He drinks to drown his sorrows, and to forget the sense of his own futility. He is very attached to his mother, but his self-loathing keeps driving him to drink despite her efforts to convince him otherwise. Paro is also in love with Shankar, but they fight incessantly when he treats her harshly.
While the two are sharing a contentious courtship, Pushpa takes a liking to her young, handsome tutor, Shyam Sunder. Though she pursues him single-mindedly, the idealistic Shyam Sunder is convinced that his presence is not benefitting either of his students, and he decides to quit. Pushpa rushes to convince him to stay, alerting her mother to her infatuation. This prompts her mother to tell Jagat Narayan to hasten his search for bridegrooms for the two young girls.
Shankar’s mother suffers from a heart condition, but when she gives him money to bring her medicine, he spends most of it on alcohol. Staying with his mother to take care of her, Paro is horrified when she sees the inebriated Shankar stumble into the house. Seeing her future laid out before her in the figure of the long suffering mother, Paro determines to rid him of his addiction. The next day, she pretends to be drunk to show him the effect he has on those who love him. Shankar is outraged, and he hits her, hurting her head. Paro is not dissuaded, convinced that this episode will push him to stop drinking, but Shankar comes home drunk yet again, this time carrying a bottle to share with her. Distressed, she leaves, and Shankar’s mother berates him, telling him the truth. Overwhelmed by regret, Shankar decides to stop drinking, and he leaves the village to look for employment elsewhere. He vows never to return until he has cured himself of his addiction.
In the village, Pushpa’s father arranges her wedding with Shyam Sunder, while Shankar toils away in the city. Holding a steady job, he gives up alcohol. But dire tidings await him at home: the moneylender he borrowed money from to support his habit comes to collect on his debt. He turns Shankar’s ailing mother out of their house. Fortunately, Shankar returns and pays him back his money, bringing his mother back home.
Paro is overjoyed to see Shankar back, and she encourages him to approach her brother for her hand in marriage. However, his reputation as a drunken wastrel precedes him, and he is manhandled and thrown out of Jagat Narayan’s mansion. Confronted with the impossibility of a union with the woman he loves, Shankar turns to drink yet again. When his mother is taken gravely ill again, Paro asks him to pawn her necklace in exchange for money. On his way back, he is waylaid by his desire to drink. While he is knocked out and inebriated, his mother is on her deathbed with only Paro by her side. When he awakens, he rushes home only to have her die in his arms.
Devastated, Shankar wanders off alone. In the meantime, Pushpa’s mother has arranged her wedding as well as Paro’s on the same day. Trapped in a situation with no escape in view, Paro attempts to kill herself. In the nick of time, Pushpa exchanges the poison she means to swallow with a harmless powder, and she helps her escape the premises to go to Shankar. Paro’s undying devotion to him finally provides Shankar with some faith in the world, and he enthusiastically goes to his friend, the liquor shop owner. He asks him to return his mother’s jewellery, which he had pawned in exchange for alcohol, but by the time Shankar returns, Paro has been dragged back to the wedding by her brother. Shankar arrives to interrupt the wedding, but an angry mob attacks him for doing so, leaving him wounded and unconscious. Moved by this sight, Paro’s brother is convinced that Shankar truly loves Paro, and he consents to their marriage. As Shankar comes back home with his new bride, his old partner in crime, Hari, arrives to celebrate the union with a bottle of alcohol. As Paro watches with bated breath, Shankar breaks the bottle and swears off alcohol. Gleeful, the happy young couple chases Hari away together before they embrace.