The film tells in flashback the story of Suresh Sinha (Guru Dutt) a famous film director. His marriage to Bina (Veena) is on the rocks because her wealthy family sees Filmmaking as a job lacking in social status. He is also denied access to his daughter Pammi (Naaz) who is sent to a private boarding school. On a rainy night Sinha meets a woman Shanti (Waheeda Rehman) and gives her his coat. She comes to the film studio to return the coat and disrupts the shooting walking in front of the camera. Seeing the rushes Sinha is sure that she is a star in the making and she is cast as Paro in Devdas. Shanti becomes a star and she and Suresh, two lonely people, come together. They are spoken about in gossip columns and even Pammi's friends make life miserable for her. She pleads with Shanti to leave Sinha's life and Shanti withdraws becoming a school teacher in a small village. Her withdrawal leads to a decline in Sinha's fortunes and he finds himself down and out. Shanti is forced to return to films since she has a contract with the studio but cannot help him, as he is too far-gone. Finally Sinha remembering his glorious past dies in the empty film studio in the director's chair, a lonely and forgotten man.