The beginning of the film is set in 1951 in a small village of Idar in Sabarkantha district, northern Gujarat, where a young man named Gurukant Desai dreams of making it big someday. His father Kantilal, the headmaster of the village school, tells him not to dream and that dreams never come true. Guru decides to go to Turkey and enter the spice trade, followed by a blue-collar job with Burmah Shell; later, he is promoted but refuses the job, as he wants to work for himself. Guru returns to his village, he marries Sujata, mainly because of the dowry she brings him. Along with Sujata and her brother Jignesh, Guru migrates to Bombay and starts trading in cloth. Gradually, he expands his business and sets up manufacturing units of his own, under the name "Shakti Corporation".
"Nanaji" Manik Dasgupta, who publishes a newspaper "Swatantra" ("The Independent"), treats Guru as his son. Guru likewise looks upon him as a father figure who supported him during his early days of struggle in Bombay. He also develops a strong friendship with Meenu, granddaughter of Nanaji. Meenu develops multiple sclerosis as she grows up, and begins using a wheelchair.
As Guru's business grows into one of the largest in India, he ruthlessly pursues success. He smuggles machine parts for his polyester mills, illegally creates goods, and manipulates stocks to make a higher profit. But when Nanaji learns that Guru's means of success are not always honest, he, along with a reporter of his newspaper, Shyam Saxena, decides to expose Guru's increasingly corrupt ways.
The stress of his battle with the newspaper causes Guru to have a stroke, and he is paralysed on his right side. Meanwhile, Meenu, who is now married to Shyam, is slowly weakening from her illness, and eventually dies. In the end, Guru is brought before a private government inquiry on 16 October 1980 to defend himself against the charges pressed against him, but tells the press in next day that he was an ordinary villager who didn't even understand the meaning of excise duty, customs, sales tax. All he knew was his business. But the corrupt system made sure that a villager doesn't become a rich businessman. As a result, he had to indulge in corrupt practices. This forces the government to clear him of 27 of the 29 charges against him. He is charged with a fine of ₹6.3 million (equivalent to ₹100 million or US$1.6 million in 2016) and ₹96,000 (equivalent to ₹1.6 million or US$24,000 in 2016) for the respective two charges, which are proved and is allowed to return to his company. The movie ends with Guru telling Shakti's shareholders that his father was proven wrong as he said dreams don't turn true, but they all are now a part of India's largest company. Guru asks them if they should stop. Shareholders refuse and resolve to be the largest company in the world instead.