Gopi (Nizhalgal Ravi) and Hari (Chandrasekhar) are unemployed Post-graduates and roommates. Gopi is looking for a job and Hari wants to become a music director. They struggle to make ends meet and manage with the help of friends. Their neighbor, a retired officer, has two sons Mano and Prabhu (Rajasekaran), and a daughter Poongothai (Suvitha). Prabhu is eccentric, does not attend college, smokes, and paints, and keeps singing. A family moves in as a new tenant, above their house, and they have a daughter, Mahalakshmi, or Maha (Rohini). Both Prabhu and Maha study in the same college and Maha appreciates his talent and Prabhu gets comfort from that. He becomes a disciple of a veena expert (Charu Hasan) but just before classes begin, the veena expert dies leaving Prabhu shattered.
Gopi takes tuition for Maha and they fall in love soon. Under different circumstances, Gopi, Hari, and Prabhu are in Police custody. Maha pledges her chain and bails them out and advises them to do something about their life. Prabhu tries to reform and meets the Professor but gets into an altercation and gets dismissed from college. His father scolds him but Maha understands his behavior. Prabhu starts assuming that Maha loves him.
A few relatives doubt Maha's close relationship with Gopi and her father stops her tuition. Hari gets a chance at music direction and takes an advance. Using that advance, Gopi returns Maha's chain. Maha refuses to marry the groom chosen by her parents and tells Gopi that they have to get married soon but he asks for some time to get a job.
Gopi's father (K.K. Soundar) comes to meet him, understands his precarious situation, and asks him to return home. But Gopi refuses and his father leaves frustrated. Hari's new film pooja is scheduled for the next day and he gets shocked to know that he has been dropped as the financier refused to finance a film featuring a new music director.
The house-owner throws Gopi and Hari out for not paying rent and both go and stay in rickshaw puller Mani's (Manivannan) hut. Gopi's father dies and he gets a telegram. Rickshaw puller's son Singam (Khaja Sheriff) goes out to get money for Gopi's travel and meets with an accident while returning. Hari tries to collect money by playing music but hardly makes any and gets upset. Gopi tries to borrow money from the money-lender (Janakaraj) but he refuses and talks ill about Singam's background. Gopi gets angry, stabs him, and brings money to treat Singam. By then, it is late and Singam dies due to lack of treatment.
Maha's parents decide on her marriage and she is helpless. She tells Prabhu and he is upset and questions the social system and asks her why she did not reveal her love for him. Maha is shocked and tells him that she never loved him and loves Gopi. Prabhu is again disappointed and as life has ditched him in every step, he tries to molest her to somehow own her. She takes out a knife and tells him that he is like her brother and should not hurt her. Prabhu gets upset about his behavior and makes her stab him and dies. Gopi meets her and informs her that he killed the money lender to save a life and tells her to settle down well and Maha explains what transpired in her life.
Maha takes a bold stand. She burns her books as a witness and gets married to Gopi. The next day everyone is shocked to see a dead Prabhu. Both Gopi and Maha are arrested for the murders. Hari throws away the harmonium in the sea and starts acting crazy. He becomes mad.
[from the book Pride of Tamil Cinema:1931 to 2013 by G Dhananjayan, Blue Ocean Publishers, 2014]