The movie is set in the fictional village of Solaiyur and revolves around a dam which is the lifeline for the village. The dam is under assessment for structural integrity by the Public Works Department. The local minister has corrupt intentions and wants to make money through a new dam project. The villagers want to perform a special Pooja to pray to the God Shiva. They decide to invite the grandson of Maharaja Lingeswaran who commissioned the dam and the temple. They believe the return of the line of the Maharaja will solve the problems surrounding the dam. Lingaa (played by Rajinikanth in contemporary time) is the grandson of Maharaja Lingeswaran. His family has fallen on hard times and he is now a petty thief in the city. He is angry with his grandfather for squandering away the family fortune so he is unwilling to go to Solaiyur to preside over the temple function. However, circumstances force him to accept the invitation and travel to Solaiyur. Through a flashback sequence, Lingaa comes to know that his grandfather, Lingeswaran (also played by Rajinikanth, set in 1939) was an altruist. Lingeswaran had spent his entire fortune to build the dam against all odds during the British Raj. But the people of Solaiyur had mistaken his intentions which forced him to leave Solaiyur and move to the city. Lingaa repents his ways and understands the great sacrifices made by his grandfather for the public good. In the final act, Lingaa exposes the Minister's greed to the villagers and saves the dam from an aerial bomb attack.
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