Padayappa (Rajinikanth) is an mechanical engineer who visits his hometown to attend his sister's wedding. His sister is engaged to the son of his maternal uncle (Radha Ravi). During this happy occasion, Padayappa's father's foster brother (Manivannan) demands a share in the family property. However, standing true to his words that the family property should not be divided, Padayappa's father (Sivaji Ganesan) gives the entire property to him.

Padayappa's family is then forced to leave their home. Unable to bear this shock, his father suddenly dies. His sister's wedding is then cancelled because the groom chose to marry someone offering him a greater dowry and married his uncle's daughter. But, Nilambiri (Ramya Krishnan), the spoiled daughter of his maternal uncle, is madly in love with Padayappa.

Meanwhile, Padayappa finds out that the hill in the land he owns is a granite mountain, starts a granite business and becomes rich and famous in town since he uses the money in service of the poor. His family, once again, is able to settle down. His sister gets married to an engineer Padayappa hired, and Padayappa maintains his father's position in village as a leader, and in the process, helps his father's foster brother to compensate for the heavy losses that his father's foster brother had incurred in the meantime. As a result of this, Padayappa's father's foster brother seeks Padayappa's pardon for his misdeeds and becomes indebted to him. Padayappa forgives his father's foster brother.

Padayappa is in love with Vasundhara (Soundarya), Nilambari's servant. When Nilambari finds this out, she goes crazy. Her parents beg Padayappa's widowed mother to allow Nilambari to marry Padayappa. Padayappa obeys his mother's orders to get married. However, Padayappa's mother becomes wise and embarrasses her brother in front of the entire village, giving a proposal of marriage to Vasundhara's mother (her brother's servant), reminding her brother the humiliation he put her through when Padayappa's father died. Nilambari's dad commits suicide in humiliation. Nilambari tries to kill Vasundhara, but is not successful.

After the wedding, Nilambari locks herself in a room in her brother's house, only having Padayappa in her mind for 18 years. However, when her brother finally wakes her up, she plans her revenge on Padayappa, now a father of two adult daughters. Nilambari's brother also has a son, Chandraprakash aka Chandru (Abbas) who studies in the same college as Padayappa's elder daughter (Preetha Vijayakumar). He is told by Nilambari that he should make Padayappa's daughter fall in love with him. At the same time Padayappa plans to get his eldest daughter married to his sister's son.

As a tradition in their village the groom and bride are asked if they both are not being forced to marry each other. Nilambari's plan is to make Padayappa's daughter say that she doesn't wish to get married to the groom that her parents want her to marry and that she is in love with someone else and in that process get Padayappa humiliated.

Her plan works, but Padayappa retaliates and makes his daughter's lover confess that he really fell in love with her, even though he was told only to act. Padayappa decides to take him to his house for the marriage, with Nilambari and her brother chasing behind. The chase sees Nilambari's brother killed in a car accident.

After a dramatic fight scene, the marriage takes place. Nilambari reaches the temple where the marriage is conducted and in anger tries to kill Padayappa. But Padayappa succeeds in saving her life by preventing a bull from attacking her while dodging the bullets fired from the gun. Rather than live with the humiliation of knowing that she was unsuccessful in avenging her father's death and having her life saved by her enemy, Nilambari commits suicide by shooting herself. Padayappa gives her Mukti.

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