An impoverished and struggling cartoonist, Preetam (Guru Dutt) encounters Anita (Madhubala) at a tennis match. Anita is controlled by her aunt Sita Devi (Lalita Pawar), a crusader for Women's Rights who 'protects' Anita from men. However Anita's father stipulates his will that Anita will inherit his fortune only if she marries within a month of turning 21. Sita Devi decides to contrive a marriage which would be followed by divorce so that Anita gets both her wealth and her independence. She hires Preetam to marry Anita unaware that he is in love with her. When Anita finds out he is her hired husband, he falls in her eyes. Preetam, frustrated at not being able to see Anita after the marriage, carries her off to his brother's house in a nearby village. Anita is deeply influenced by Preetam's sister-in-law, a perfect traditional Indian housewife. However she has already asked Sita Devi to rescue her. Feeling that Anita doesn't reciprocate his feelings, Preetam fabricates evidence against himself so that his divorce with Anita will come about easily and decides to leave Bombay. Preetam is much maligned in court but by now Anita realizes she loves him. She defies her aunt and rushes to the airport to stop Preetam from leaving. Anita and Preetam are reunited.
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