The plot of Ankur revolves around Surya (Anant Nag), a young college going guy who is compelled to give up his studies to look after his ancestral land. He has also been forced to marry against his wishes. The girl, Saru (Priya Tendulkar), is still young and hence does not stay with him. As far as relationships are concerned he has little respect for marriage. Surya has witnessed his father's liaison outside marriage. Inspite of disliking it he treads the very same path.
At the village he has nobody to spend his time. The only people living in his immediate neighbourhood are Lakshmi (Shabana Azmi) and her husband, poor deaf-mute potter Kishtaya (Sadhu Meher). Kishtaya is caught stealing toddy and frightened he runs away. Although Lakshmi turned down Surya's advances earlier, she is now completely left at his mercy with her husband gone. She succumbs to his persistence and Surya promises to look after her. However their relationship is short-lived as Saru arrives. She suspects Lakshmi and dismisses her. On the other hand Kishtaya returns and is happy to hear about Laksmi's pregnancy, thinking that the child is his.
He now decides to look for a job with Surya and thus, approaches him. Seeing Kishtaya and on hearing about Lakshmi pregnancy he loses his temper and beats Kishtaya mercilessly. It is now that Lakshmi reacts. She insults and abuses him. Surya ois cowered down by her tirades. At last the peasant woman finds her voice and fights back the exploitative feudal system.
Ankur still remains one of the finest films of Shyam Benegal. Shaban Azmi steals the show even as a debut actress. Ankur explores human relationships at the same time presents the exploitation, both physical and emotional, that the underprivileged face. In this insightful film Benegal deals with women sensitively. The powerful performance is fully supported by Anant Nag and the rest of the crew. today Anant Nag is one of the well known Marathi actors in Indian cinema.
Ankur won the National Awards (Silver Lotus Award, 1975) that year. It bagged the Best Actress Award for Shabana Azmi and the Best film award.