The movie opens with a feather flying through the air, swept by a city sweeper into the path of a train and through a few more places until it ends at the foot of a man sitting in a train cabin. The Man’s name is Laal Singh Chaddha. He picks it up, stares at it before picking out a book from his bag. There is a picture of a woman in it and for a moment he places the picture side by side with the white feather, smiling. A woman comes to sit on an empty chair opposite his just as he places the feather in the book with the picture and putting it back in his bag.
There is some turbulence on the train and the man makes funny sounds while the woman sitting opposite him stares with confusion. He opens a box of golgappas in his laps, picks up a bottle of liquid which he pours into the baked good before eating. He notices the woman staring and offers her a piece, she says no and he takes a bite. He tries to make conversation and tells the woman his name and compliments her shoes. He speaks so much about his mother and some of the wise things she says.
As she speaks to the woman, he has a flash back of his first shoes and tells some of his story. He has leg braces on as the doctor puts him on the ground for some shaky steps. He tells his story, how his name wasn’t always Laal, instead, it was his grandfather’s name. His grandfather had gone to Pakistan to fight in the war in the year he was born and never returned. His great-grandpa hadn’t returned from World War II and his great-great-grandfather hadn’t returned from World War I. There are pictures of the three men hanging above the family shrine, all three were called Laal and his mother was very proud of them which is why she named him Laal.
While at a shop with his mother, he wanders off to where two men are listening to the radio and listens as the state of emergency ban is lifted. His mother hands him a shopping bag and a man tries to help because of the leg braces but the mother stops him. As they drive home, she tells Laal that he can do anything, and doesn’t need anyone’s help.
They are always seen together around Karoli where they lived in his mother’s family home which was built by his grandfather, great grandfather as well as great great grandfather. She tries to teach Laal that he is just like every other kid but when she takes him to school, the headmaster tells her Laal is different from other kids and went as far as calling him dimwit. The mother argues that Laal is slow but he understands as well as other kids. The headmaster is angry that the woman has come to his home for this even after he already told her to take her son elsewhere. The headmaster complains that he shouldn’t be disturbed because he is busy and has no help at home. His maid left and he has to do the dishes, cook and clean.
The woman goes to the car and picks a container of food and hands it to him promising to do his dishes and cook as long as her son goes to his school. The man is happy for her tenacity and agrees to accept Laal in his school.
On his first day, his mother advises him to work hard. He didn’t want her to leave and begs her to stay just for the day. She agrees and sits within the compound. Immediately Laal walks into the class, the kids stare at him, his legs, the small bonnet on his head and many of the kids won’t let him sit beside them. But a beautiful girl, Rupa asks him to sit beside her. They become friends from that moment. He is always with Rupa both in class and outside – they go everywhere together and do everything together.
Laal notices that Rupa likes to stay out and never likes going back home. Laal’s mother bought the first television in the village and the whole town came over to watch cricket on TV in their home. That night, Laal asks Rupa to marry him just as the fireworks go off.
Laal continues his story on the bus. When the woman he’s talking to on the train mentions that his aunt’s name was Rupa, Laal begins to talk about his aunt, Manjeet who lived at Amritsar and one time they went to visit her and he saw so many soldiers. We see it all, the blackout all over the city, the loud sound of artillery weapons and the fear in everyone’s faces. Next, he talks about his time in Delhi, how he laughed and danced to modern songs with his cousins despite their taunts about him being a crippled.
He reveals that he taught Shah Rukh Kahn his famous moves, and compliments him for being a nice person. His happy time in Delhi when he hears explosive sounds again as they take pictures on tour. He returns to the trains with his mother but their rickshaw is haunted down by hoodlums holding matchsticks. He escapes with his mother and thinks his long hair is the problem as his mother cuts it off with broken glass she found in their hideout. Back in his hometown, Laal faces bullying again. Rupa encourages him to run fast but his braces slow him down. However, a miracle happens and he begins to run, making the braces break away.
Rupa doesn’t come to school one day, so Laal runs to her home. He meets her sitting outside, crying, while her parents fight inside. Rupa asks him for ten rupees but he doesn’t have it. As they pray that Rupa gets rich, they hear a crashing sound, and the smashing of glass, and the drop of a body. Rupa’s father is arrested for the death of her mother. Rupa is taken to her grandmother by the police, only to end up in Laal’s house because his househelp, Phuphi, is Rupa’s grandmother. He calls it a miracle.
Years later, he moves to a college in Delhi with Rupa. The bullies from his village follow him there and torment him. He runs into a field and runs faster than the athletes. He gets recruited and joins the team. He wins 100 meter races for them and joins the National Cadet Corps in College whil Rupa participated in fashion walks. During the break, Laal asks Rupa to marry him after shooing away Harry, another boy Rupa liked. Rupa says she wants to go to Mumbai and become famous and rich, while Laal says he might join the Army. He misses races because he locks himself in his room, keeping himself safe from Malaria, as per his mother’s instructions.
As soon as he graduates from college, Laal enrolls for the army. He meets a different atmosphere there, with no friend to help him. He meets Bala whose family owns an undergarment business and admits that he finds the army easier than college. Laal finishes every task easily while Bala talks non-stop about the undergarment business. Laal’s speed always impresses the lieutenant. Bala teaches Laal how to make undergarments and they begin making undergarments for officers during the holidays. Laal thinks of Rupa every night in the barracks until he sees her in the newspaper. Apparently, Rupa is in trouble for obscenity so Laal takes time off the army to go help her. He beats up some men in front of the police station when they speak rudely of Rupa.
Laal asks Rupa to marry him again when they’re alone together and she explains why she cannot marry him. Laal says he’ll be posted to an unknown place soon and Rupa advices him to run when it gets too hot. She pecks him and leaves. Over the next four years, Bala gets married and has three kids. Laal is still missing Rupa when Bala asks him to become his business partner as soon as they finish their service. They embark on their first mission against India’s enemies in Kargil. Laal narrates the details of the war. In that war, Bala dies. After the war ends, Laal ends up in a hospital due to bullet wounds. He receives a bundle of the letters he sent to Rupa. Apparently, none of them went through.
Laal gets called to Delhi to receive the national award for saving five lives, although one of them has gone missing from the hospital. In the traffic, on his way to his aunt’s place, Laal sees Rupa in a car and runs after it despite his health condition. He witnesses Rupa getting slapped and beats up the man. Rupa rebukes him in public but calls him later on to meet at Indian Gate. They walk all night until dawn, reminiscing about old times and catchjng up. Rupa leaves again, this time for Dubai. Laal says she’ll always be his Rupa. Laal returns to the Army and trains the Running team.
After a trip abroad, he meets Mohammed Baaji, one of the lives he saved in the Kargil war. Mohammed Paaji is a traitor that Laal mistakenly saved. He takes Laal to his house and makes Laal understand what he did. They go out to have a drink and Paaji makes fun of Laal’s resolve to start an undergarment business. It is new year’s eve and Rupa is attempting to take her life. She changes her mind as soon as she remembers Laal’s words to her.
Laal returns home and starts the undergarment business as per Bala’s wish. The manufacturing aspect works out fine, but they are unable to sell up to 800 pieces a month due to lack of marketing until Paaji shows up one day. After failing to sell the undergarments with all of Paaji’s ideas, they pack up production. However, Paaji gets an idea to change the business name to something feminine and that’s how the business name is changed from Bala Undergarments to Rupa Undergarments. The passengers are not convinced that the owner of Rupa Corporation is seated in their midst, telling them a story.
Paaji sees the news of terrorists attacks and feels remorseful. He thanks Laal for saving his life after all these years. Paaji is in awe of Laal’s philosophy of God since he has never seen him pray. Paaji wants to return to his country and erect a school to teach about friendship. As soon as Paaji leaves, Laal’s mother falls terribly ill. The sickness is cancer and she dies some days later. Laal stays on the farm and builds a hospital in his mother’s name. One day, Rupa walks back into his life. He tells her everything that has happened in her absence and notices that she’s withdrawn.
She acts up every time there’s a fight between the househelp and her husband. Laal takes good care of Rupa until she’s happy again and asks her to marry him for the fourth time. Rupa rejects him again, at first, but reconsiders and gives herself to him. While he sleeps that night, Rupa leaves his side and quietly follows police officers that have come to arrest her. Laal wakes up to no Rupa again and runs across the country for a long time. Meanwhile, news about Rupa and her former boyfriend Abhas read that she got a six month sentence for being close to her ex who is a murderer.
Laal runs around for four years and many months. He suddenly stops and returns home, saying he is tired. In the train, he shows his audience the letters Rupa sent to the house while he was running around. He gets down at Chandigarh, where he is supposed to meet Rupa. He meets little Aman Chadda there who Rupa reveals to be his son. Rupa is sick and asks Laal to marry her. They get married and Rupa dies shortly after. Laal visits her grave and tells her all about their son’s growth. The movie ends with a similar scene as the beginning, only that this time, the white feather flies away from the man with his little book and rottening shoes.