The film is derived from a classic folk tale, originally narrated by Vijaydan Detha, and interpreted as folk play by Habib Tanvir. The film charts the tumultuous life of a petty thief, Charandas (Lalu Ram). Curiously he is a man of principles – an honest thief with a strong sense of integrity and professional efficiency. He makes four vows to his Guru, that he would never eat in a gold plate, never lead a procession that is in his honour, never become a king and never marry a princess, thinking all of them are far out possibilities for him. Later, his guru adds a fifth one - never to tell a lie and sets him of on his life's journey which leads him to a kingdom, where the turn of events make him famous, and eventually he is offered the seat of political power which he has to refuse. Later, the local princess (Smita Patil) gets enchanted by him, and proposes to marry him.