Shekhar (Arvind Swamy) is the son of a traditional Hindu father in a seaside village in Tamil Nadu. A journalism student studying in Bombay, Shekhar visits back home to see his family. On one of his return trips, he lays eyes on Shaila Bano (Manisha Koirala), a Muslim schoolgirl in the village. Initially shy, Shaila seeks to distance herself from Shekhar, but after frequent run-ins, and days of pursuit, Shaila begins to like Shekhar. Eventually, they both fall in love.
A marriage proposal is vehemently opposed by the lovers' fathers. Shekar's father refuses to accept Shaila as his daughter-in-law, telling Shekhar to find another partner, whilst Shaila's father announces the need for an immediate marriage between his daughter and a Muslim man. Shekhar's father says if the two ever get married, he will cease talking to his son. Shekhar reacts angrily to his father's refusal to accept Shaila, and so leaves, back to Bombay. Shaila, under increasing pressure from her father, escapes from the village and joins Shekhar. At first, Shaila is overwhelmed by the city, having relocated for the first time from rural surroundings to a city life. However, with time she adapts to her new lifestyle. The two get married. The newlyweds move into a new apartment.
A few months later, Shaila becomes pregnant and gives birth to twins, Kabir Narayan and Kamal Basheer. The twins are raised in both religions. Shekar continues to work as a journalist, whilst Shaila works at home, looking after the children. For six years, the family live in Bombay, settling in well, and begin the process of repairing relations with their respective families. The relatives visit the family in the city for the first time in over half a decade, and are overjoyed to see their two grandchildren.
Meanwhile, in India, religious extremism launches each community against the other, causing a wave of Hindu/Muslim riots that leave hundreds dead in Bombay. Targets of violence from both sides, Shaila and Shekhar worry increasingly over the safety of their children, whom they raised with both Hindu and Islamic traditions. They are constantly under threat. The growing tension threatens to bring tragedy to the family and how they cope with it form the crux of the story.
Did you know?
The film's soundtrack sold 15 million units, becoming one of the best-selling film soundtracks of all time, and earning composer A. R. Rahman his fourth consecutive Filmfare Best Music Director Award (Tamil). Read More