Parts of the movie were shot in Motihari in Bihar. The climax of the film was entirely shot at the state Legislative Assembly in Hyderabad. The film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi, and was screened at the International Film Festival of India, and the Toronto International Film Festival. "India Today" cited the film as the "Best Cop Movie" of the decade.
The film opens with a late night telephone call from Patna asking to speak to Bachchu Yadav (Sayaji Shinde), an MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) of the ruling political party in Bihar. Bachchu Yadav' lackeys trace their boss to a prostitute's abode, where he receives the telephone and is informed that his party has selected another MLA for the ticket this time. Yadav wastes no time, reaches the newly selected MLA candidate's home and pressurises him to give up his nomination in lieu of money. When intimidation fails, Yadav's thugs stabbed the MLA-candidate under Yadav's supervision. When his deadliest cohort, Sudhir Vinod, stabs him in right-side of the chest, Yadav rebukes him for this "mistake" and stabs the half-dead man himself on the left, jokingly reminding him that heart is on the left side, by enacting Madhuri Dixit's famous Bollywood song, "Dhak Dhak Karne Laga".
Meanwhile, Inspector Samar Pratap Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) arrives at Motihari, where he has been transferred as an inspector, with his wife (Raveena Tandon) and daughter. At the railway station he gets into a confrontation with a coolie (Rajpal Yadav). The two have a tiff on the payment of Rs. 30/- to be paid to the coolie for his services, which Singh refuses to pay, as he (rightfully) thinks he is being overcharged. As the situation goes to the verge of fisticuffs, a local police hawaldaar intervenes. Not knowing that Singh, too, is a police officer, the hawaldaar tries to manhandle Singh. Infuriated, Singh takes the matter to the police station to which he is posted. As Singh writes a complaint against the hawaldaar for harassing an innocent local (Singh), a sub-inspector, Hussain, intervenes. Hussain asks Singh to forgive the hawaldaar, to which Singh does not relent. Singh later learns that the Motihari police station runs according to the whims of a local politician and criminal, Bachhu Yadav, and his henchmen. Singh is an idealist who respects the constitution and the law, and expects that everyone else should do the same. But no one follows the law in Motihari, especially the policemen who receive hafta (illicit weekly payments) from Yadav to do his bidding.
One day, the Deputy Superintendent of Police (Shrivallabh Vyas) asks Singh to break up a fight between two rival gangs and arrest the people who attacked some of Yadav's men. Singh investigates and finds out that Yadav's men are the real culprits. Among them are Sudhir Vinod (Nagesh Bhosle) and Lallan Singh (Yashpal Sharma), so Singh arrests them instead. When the D.S.P. orders Singh to release them, he refuses to do so, saying that he has already registered the case against the . This is the first time Singh's superior learns of his real character and express concern over his future. Sub-inspector Hussain, who shamelessly admits to subjection to Yadav, declares that Singh won't last long in his current job if he continues in his ways. Singh sadly learns the limit of his official prowess, when the court releases Yadav's men (the men who were beaten up refuse to testify, understandably out of fear of Yadav's wrath).
Meanwhile Yadav is giving a fine demonstration of his rustically unsophisticated learning by arguing in the Bihar Legislative Assembly against the building of a certain dam over the river Ganges on the grounds that "stealing" electricity from water will result in loss to farmers. He further gives proof of lack of basic education and awareness by misquoting the famous political slogan "jai jawan, jai kisan".
Things begin worsening and Singh soon finds himself alone in his fight against a corrupt and rotten system. One day, while buying vegetables in the local market, he sees three young men sitting on a wall teasing passing girls by singing lewd Bhojpuri songs; when he confronts them they react defiantly to Singh (who is in plainclothes). However, on learning that he is the S.H.O., the two become defensive and tell him meekly that they are students of M.S. College, but the third declares proudly that he is younger brother of an influential politician Pranav Thakur (not Yadav), hoping that Singh will be impressed, but Singh retorts with a slap and forces him to apologise to the girls.
On his way home, Yadav decides to give an interview to a female journalist who boldly asks him if he is a murderer. Yadav, understandably, gets annoyed and tries to confuse and intimidate her, and upon failing to do so, simply asks her to get out of his car.
Yadav gets irritated by Singh's methods, particularity because he arrested his men. He decides to annoy him and organises his own marriage anniversary and arranges a folk dance by hiring a beautiful nautch girl (Shilpa Shetty) late into night. Singh reaches the scene and asks to see the permission papers that are required in India for operating loudspeakers late into the night. When no such official papers are produced, Singh seizes the music system and disrupts the party. Yadav confronts him and asks to be forgiven (in a patronising and satiric manner). The inebriated D.S.P. who is also present at the party tries to cool Singh's tempers by telling him such rules are inconsequential in small villages. Singh refuses to yield, which angers the D.S.P. who gives Singh a direct order to let the matter go. Singh stands firm, and states that he will let the situation go only if is given written orders. The following morning, the act of defiance by Singh causes a heated debate between Singh and the D.S.P., who, with the help of the corrupt sub-inspector Hussain, falsely frames Singh for a physical attack on his senior (D.S.P.). Tiwari (Vineet Kumar) tries to help Singh but in vain. Singh gets suspended from his post.
Yadav and his men decide to land the final blow on Singh and finish him once and for all. One day, when Singh takes his daughter to a sweet-shop, Yadav's goons begin passing disgustingly indecent comments towards Singh's daughter, which causes Singh to lose his temper, who single-handedly beats them. One of the henchman attacks Singh with a heavy wooden club, but instead bludgeons Singh's daughter on her head, killing her.
When the badly injured Laljee goes to Yadav and tell him that Singh has beaten them badly, Yadav, who cares next to nothing even about his most loyal men, finds it a golden opportunity to accuse Singh. He immediately takes a shotgun from the wall and hits Laljee on the head forcefully enough to kill him, and then orders his henchmen to register a complaint that Laljee actually died because of the beating by Singh. The police waste no time and arrest Singh while he is still grieving over his daughter's dead body. Singh's parents come to help him, and his father (Virendra Saxena) pleads with Yadav to get him released. Yadav uses this situation to his advantage and gets Singh released by asking one of his henchmen to testify. When Singh realises that Yadav was behind his release, he insults Yadav.
A few days later, Singh's parents leave, and he has a big fight with his wife over their situation and her accusation that his idealism is to blame for the quagmire they find themselves in and for the death of their daughter. She asks him why he doesn't just go and kill Yadav if he's as brave as he pretends to be. Singh tells her he's afraid for her sake. That if she had not been in his life, Yadav would be dead and buried by now. Then he leaves in a huff. His wife tries to commit suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. Singh's only true friend in town, the honest sub-inspector Tiwari, informs Singh about his wife's suicide attempt and both rush to the hospital. Singh manages to speak a few sentences of comfort with her, where she absolves him of his guilt and asks him to avenge her and their daughter, before she dies.
Singh, having lost the woman he loved; feels he has lost everything and has nothing to live for anymore. He goes home, readies himself and wears his police uniform, visits the police station and snatches his service weapon in spite of sub-inspector Hussain's warning. Singh kills Hussain, then makes way to Patna where the state legislature is in session, enters the well of the house, defying heavy security. Singh finds Yadav and drags him by his collar to the Speaker's dais. After an emotional appeal to members of parliament on the leadership crisis and criminalisation of politics that is rotting and consuming the entire system in India, he shoots Yadav in the head, declares his patriotism and yells "Jai Hind" twice.Manoj Bajpayee as Inspector Samar Pratap Singh
Raveena Tandon as Manjari Singh
Sayaji Shinde as Bacchu "Bhaiyyaji" Yadav
Vineet Kumar as Inspector Tiwari
Ganesh Yadav as Inspector Hussain
Virendra Saxena as Prabal Pratap Singh
Nandu Madhav as Laljee Yadav
Sandeep Kulkarni as Gopaljee
Nagesh Bhosle as Sudhir Vinod
Yashpal Sharma as Lallan Singh
Shri Vallabh Vyas as D.S.P
Rajpal Yadav as Violent Coolie
Shilpa Shetty as Item Girl in a Song
Pratima Kazmi as Bhachhu Yadav's Mother
Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Waiter
National Film Awards
National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi - Ram Gopal Varma
Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance, 2000 – Manoj Bajpai.
Screen AwardsStar Screen Award for Best Villain, 2000 – Sayaji Shinde.