The film tells the story of a film journalist?s search for the truth that is his mother. Zubeidaa (Karisma Kapoor) is born into a Muslim film family that looks down upon their daughter as an actress. Her father (Amrish Puri) can have an affair with a leading actress of the studio, but he strongly objects when he catches his daughter doing a banjaran dance number for the man that buys the studio from him. Zubeidaa is then forced into a premature marriage with her father?s best friend?s son. She quickly becomes pregnant, and even as she delivers - a family feud errupts and her father decides that she must get divorced.
Zubeidaa survives this trauma by finding solace in Rose, her father?s socialite/actress mistress. Rose takes Zubeidaa to a polo match where the young lady meets the royal prince - Victor (Manoj Bajpai). A romance quickly blossoms and Zubeidaa is forced to leave her child behind with her mother (Surekha Sikri) and move to a world of supposed freedom and royalty.
After marrying Victor, Zubeidaa meets Mandakini (Rekha), Victor?s first wife who tries to teach Zubeidaa the etiquette of a princess. Zubeidaa immediately objects to a structured life, something she thought she had left far behind. Her loneliness and jealousy grow deeper when she sees Victor favoring Mandakini. When the threat of losing his kingdom to the new Indian government arises, Victor goes on the campaign trail - and takes his Hindu wife with him over his Muslim consort. Zubeidaa decides to interrupt this endeavour and unfortunately it leads to her downfall.