Chaudhry Baldev Singh (Amrish Puri
) is settled in London with his wife Lajjo (Farida Jalal
) and two daughters, Simran (Kajol
) and Chutki (Pooja Ruparel
). Despite living abroad for more than 20 years, he still feels that Punjab is "home".
Daughter Simran is getting ready to graduate from school, and has begun thinking about her future and a possible man in her life, though she doesn't have someone in mind. Scenes show Raj Malhotra (Shahrukh Khan
) winning at all types of male pursuits - rugby, bowling, swimming, etc. He wakes up on a pool raft realising he is late for his graduation ceremonies. He arrives breathless and slides in next to his friends, just as they are announcing that one candidate will not receive his degree. Raj makes jokes until he learns he is the one! His father, millionaire Dharamveer Malhotra (Anupam Kher
), plans for Raj to start working for him, but Raj smoothly manipulates him into allowing a month long holiday first.
The next day Chaudhry receives a letter from his old friend Ajit (Satish Shah
) in Punjab, saying that since Simran is grown it is time she married Kuljeet (Parmeet Sethi
) as was agreed when the two were born. Simran is horrified but Chaudhry is oblivious.
Her friends plan to tour Europe by train after graduation, and she desperately wishes to go but knows her father will object. Raj and his friends are planning the same type of trip.
As Chaudhry locks up his store for the night, Raj and his friends pull up and beg to buy beer. He stiffly replies that the store has closed. Raj convinces Chaudhry that he has a headache and needs aspirin, pleading for aid to a fellow Indian. Then he leaves money for the beer and runs off with it, tossing the aspirin down. Chaudhry is furious at the boy with no honor. He has always insisted that his wife and daughters keep to Indian traditions rather than assimilating. In front of him the women comply, but he has no idea what happens when he is not home (wearing miniskirts, listening to rock music, dancing.)
The next morning, he finds Simran in traditional robes, praying sweetly before a household altar. She begs him to allow her "a month of my own life" to travel before obediently marrying a man she's never met. He finally agrees.
Both Raj and Simran are late getting to the train departure, and Raj pretends they are locked in the compartment. He tries to flirt with her, using one "line" after another, to her disgust. In Paris, they meet at a party, where Raj flirts with Simran's friend using the same lines! When he brags about his piano skills, Simran assumes he's lying and introduces him as a guest player. He acts embarrassed, messes around on the piano as a novice would, and then plays it beautifully, and does a whole song and dance performance. She ends up humiliated. The next day they meet and he offers a flower as an apology - and then it squirts water in her face.
Later he delays her in a shop and they both miss the train. Simran refuses to travel with Raj, but when she is stopped by the police for hitchiking, he stops and pretends she is his wife, along with lots of hugging. After the police leave she is furious, but he points out that it was not his idea. She apologizes and they travel together until the rental car breaks down. When she is exhausted from walking, he begs shelter from a nearby house. Learning there is only one room, she leaves in a fury, assuming again that it was a plot. He finds her in a drafty barn, and later apologizes. It starts to snow, and he drinks some cognac to "stay warm". When he awakes, he finds her roaring drunk and acting wild, and chases her all over town, then has a few drinks himself.
She awakes in the farmhouse bedroom, seeing clothes scattered about the room, and Raj fools her into believing they made love. She becomes hysterical, and when he says it was a joke she doesn't believe him. Finally he has to shout at her to convince her that an Indian man would not violate an Indian woman's honor. She is so relieved that she hugs him, crying. Later that morning, she spots a church and insists on seeing it. He turns to her and finds her kneeling in prayer, and the picture strikes him. He asks what she prayed for and she won't tell him. Raj runs back into the church and prays that her prayer will be answered.
As they wait to change trains, he shares a dream similar to hers at the beginning, about a possible woman in his future. She is shocked to hear how similar they are, but when he asks if she's ever thought that way, she admits that her marriage is already arranged. After they've rejoined the group, the two meet on a bridge, and he says in all seriousness that he loves her. She is stunned - then he bursts out laughing and says it was a joke. But then he asks if she'd still marry her betrothed if she fell in love with someone else. She does not answer, then the train horn sounds and she turns to go.
Back in London, they part at the train station after Raj sadly refuses a wedding invitation. As she watches him walk away, she realises she's fallen for him, and sees his face everywhere on the way home. Raj envisions her accompanying him home also. That night, Simran confesses her love to her mother. Unfortunately, her father overhears, and is furious. He decides to pack and leave for India immediately. Raj's father encourages him to go after her.
On the family's arrival in Punjab, Kuljeet appears from the hunt as a "man's man" rather stuck on himself, and Simran continues to be depressed. Her mother wants Simran to be happy, but has realized that women don't get to make those choices. She asks Simran to put aside her feelings for Raj for the sake of the family. Simran accepts and agrees to get engaged.
Early one morning Simran goes to the fields and Raj appears. She begs him to take her away, to elope (a shameful offense against tradition in India, causing scandal and permanent family estrangement). He refuses, wanting instead to win her father's approval. He asks her to trust him, and to pretend they are strangers when next they meet.
Raj arranges to trap her betrothed, Kuljit, while hunting, and then personally release him, earning his gratitude. He tells Kuljit he's scouting for a factory location. Kuljit brings him home to his family, where Kuljit's sister Preeti (Mandira Bedi
) is infatuated. Raj attends a party with both families, where he delights Chukti, Lajjo and others, but finds out that Simran's father remembers his beer-buying prank. He continues to endear himself to the women, but trying to get on Chaudhry's good side seems impossible.
Kuljit's father wants to get Raj engaged to Preeti. Unfortunately, Raj's father arrives and agrees to the union, assuming that she is his desired bride, then has to spin a story to postpone it.
Lajjo catches Simran and Raj together, and bundles together her own jewelry, urging him to take her away. Again, Raj refuses to do the shameful thing. He finally begins to make headway with Simran's father. However, Simran's grandmother (Achala Sachdev
) gets ill, and wishes to see Simran marry, so the wedding is moved up to the next day.
Even Raj's father says Raj must take Simran and elope. Raj lets his father make the arrangements, but still hasn't decided what he will do. Simran is crying over a photo from their Europe trip when she is called to the mehndi ceremony. It blows out the window and ends up at Chaudhry's feet, making it clear that Raj is a fake and the one Simran is really in love with. When Raj arrives, Chaudhry hits him but Raj doesn't raise a hand to defend himself. Simran rushes into his arms and cries that he should have taken her away when she begged. Raj makes a lengthy speech about elders being best qualified to make decisions for youth, and that they will choose what is best. He admits he has failed to win Chaudhry's heart, and that if Kuljeet will make her a better husband, then Chaudhry is right. He returns Simran's hand to her father.
Raj leaves and finds his father at the station. His father returns to the house to try to resolve the situation. While he's gone, Kuljeet and his friends show up and start beating Raj. When Raj's father returns, he tries to intervene, and the thugs turn on him. Suddenly Raj emerges from a pile of bodies with Kuljit's gun in hand. He threatens Kuljit, then drops the gun and proceeds to beat them all up with his body alone. Someone runs to the house begging Chaudhry and Ajit to stop the fight at the station before someone is killed. Lajjo sees them leave, and runs to bring Simran to the station as well. The fathers arrive and pull Raj off Kuljeet, and Raj barely pulls back in time to avoid hitting Chaudhry. He sadly boards the train with his father, but when he looks back at Chaudhry, he sees Simran standing there. Simran's mother pushes her forward, but Chaudhry catches her hand and will not release her. She begs for him to release her, but he stares fixedly at Raj, who meets his eye the whole time. Finally he lets her go, saying that nobody will love her as much as Raj does. She runs for the train, and Raj reaches out and pulls her aboard, just as he did when they first met.