Sundaravadivelu (Vijayan) is a rich villager with a feudalistic attitude. He is also the manager of the local school and manages it authoritatively without respecting anyone. His wife Lakshmi (Ashwini) has chronic health problems and they have two children: a son (Khaja Sherif) and a daughter (Baby Anju). Lakshmi is from a poor family and her father Thambusamy (Charu Hasan) is a pensioner. He lives in the same village as his second daughter Shenbagam (Madhu Malini). Sundaravadivelu, who has lent money to his father-in-law, keeps demanding it back and also insults him on several occasions. Shenbagam falls in love with Prakash (Sundar) a new teacher in the school managed by Sundaravadivelu. Sundaravadivelu does not approve of their relationship, as he wants to marry Shenbagam, citing the chronic sickness of his wife Lakshmi as a reason. He puts this proposal before his father-in-law and offers to write off his debt if he agrees. However, Thambusamy does not agree and Sundaravadivelu vents his anger on his wife.
Once when their child is sick, Lakshmi takes the child to the recently-appointed village Health Inspector (Sarath Babu). When they meet, they realize that they had been neighbors several years back and had met when he had come to meet her father to seek her hand in marriage. By then, Lakshmi was already engaged to Sundaravadivelu and hence he had returned disappointed. Recollecting this, he tries to help her. When Thambusamy, unable to tolerate the harassment of his son-in-law, plans to leave the village, the Health Inspector offers money to settle the loan. When Sundaravadivelu learns this, he alleges an extramarital affair between his wife and the Health Inspector. With the help of the village Panchayat, he throws Lakshmi out his house, retaining the children with him. The Health Inspector leaves the village to avoid causing further strain in Lakshmi's life while Lakshmi goes to her father's place; unable to withstand separation from her children, she dies.
Sundaravadivelu remarries another lady and neglects his children. The children keep visiting Shenbagam for food and care. Prakash meets Thambusamy and proposes to marry Shenbagam. Thambusamy readily accepts and the marriage is fixed. Shenbagam goes to Sundaravadivelu's house to seek custody of his children so that she can take good care of them. Sundaravadivelu, who is jealous of her new status and angry that she had rejected his proposal to marry degrades her modesty by undressing her forcibly and proudly declares that he is the first person to see her nude; whenever her husband sees her, she would be reminded of this incident. Shenbagam is devastated, and Sundaravadivelu's new wife witnesses this heinous act and runs away from him. The villagers, on learning of this disgraceful act, catch him and order that he punishes himself to death. Sundaravadivelu commits suicide in the presence of all the villagers by drowning in the river. The children are left alone on the bank of the river like wilting flowers that have come unstrung.
[from the book Pride of Tamil Cinema: 1931 to 2013 by G Dhananjayan, Blue Ocean Publishers 2014]