The American football coach, Bear Bryant, once remarked: 'Winning isn't Everything, it's The Only Thing.'
THE ONLY THING is a black comedy about a young, innocent man, ANIL, who comes from a small town to Madras for higher studies, and discovers the sweet life of corruption
Anil stays with his relative, Mr Ramswamy, a Minister who is being investigated on corruption charges. He has amassed a fortune in cash, locked in his cupboard. Ramswamy naturally denies all charges. He welcomes Anil warmly and to protect him suggests Anil opens a bank account. Anil gives him all his money, a paltry Rs500/-.
Anil is put up in the servant's quarters and goes about his simple, monastic life of studies, prayer and looking after himself. He meets a nice traditional girl, SITA, in college. However, she's more ambitious than he is.
One day he returns to find Mrs Ramswamy ransacking the house. Mr Ramswamy has died in car accident, his car hitting a petrol tanker, and was immediately immolated. Mrs Ramswamy is looking for the money and throws Anil his bankbook with the Rs500/- deposit.
A few days later, Anil goes to draw some money from the bank. He faints when his bankbook is returned with the updated entry. He tries to return it to the bank clerk, who insists it's his book. He tries to give it to Mrs Ramswamy, still searching, but she dismisses him. He finally turns to his idol and asks for advice. He buries the bankbook.
But the temptation is too strong, especially after Sita dumps him for another guy. First he buys himself a great meal, then a TV and the TV changes his whole outlook.

He buys expensive clothes, a car, a flat and picks up a beautiful rich girl, HEMU. As a rich man, he calls himself Adam. He has become confident, bolder, extroverted. Though enjoying the money he is still wracked by guilt and desperately tries to remain the simple Anil. It's a conflict between his honesty and the corruption, with his deity as his only mentor. It grows smaller as he succumbs. Finally, the only way he can assuage his guilt is to give all the ill-gotten money to an orphanage for handicapped children. He sees their joy.
At first, he's happy, he's reverted to the quiet, introspective Anil. Then he misses the high life and the Adam character he'd become. .
One night he wakes to find Mr Ramswamy choking him. It turns out he'd faked his accident to escape the investigations and gone into hiding. But he's blown all his money and wants the bankbook. Of course, Anil's blown that.
Anil then comes up with the sly advice that Mr Ramswamy is still a party member and a minister. He can return to his old ways as, even if investigated and searched, nothing will be found, as they're broke.
We end with Anil, now Mr Ramswamy's right hand man, helping him to rake in the bribes. Anil also gets the beautiful, rich girl, Hemu and, we suspect, lives happily ever after.