The movie is based on the legend of Baiju Bawra from the days of Mughal Emperor Akbar in India. Baiju (Bhushan) is the son of a musician who also grows up to be a musician. He comes to believe that Tansen, the famed musician at the court of Akbar, is responsible for his father's death. The movie then follows Baiju's attempt to avenge his father's death by challenging Tansen to a musical duel.
Bhatt took considerable liberties with the history of India’s classical music for this megahit focusing on an encounter between Tansen (Surendra), court musician in Akbar’s (Gupta) Mughal court, and the itinerant Baiju (Bhushan). When Tansen’s guards kill Baiju’s father (Bhagwanji), he avenges himself by defeating Tansen in a musical contest.