The story is unveiled in flashback, through the eyes of Bhoothnath (Guru Dutt), a young man who starts out as a servant in a wealthy zamindar household. The thakurs lead a decadent life, giving hardly any time to their wives, who are in turn expected to engage themselves in making jewellery and remaining within the confines of the mansion.
The younger thakur marries a beautiful woman from a simple family, and true to tradition, neglects her. However, the 'Chhoti Bahu' (Meena Kumari), his wife, is very lonely. She talks to Bhoothnath about her loneliness and looks for ways by which she can win her husband's love. She even partakes alcohol one night, in order to prevent her husband leaving her for the courtesan's house.
The story thereafter, traces the destruction of the zamindars and the ultimate plight of the younger thakur and his wife.