Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar), once a senior police officer, hires two small-time crooks, Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jaidev (Amitabh Bachchan) to bring the dreaded dacoit Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) to him alive. How Jai and Veeru plan to capture Gabbar Singh and bring him to Thakur forms the rest of the movie. In the village, Veeru falls in love with the garrulous but winsome Basanti (Hema Malini), while the more serious Jaidev feels drawn to Radha.
Sholay had all the elements of a Western - rugged countryside (the film was shot in the rocky landscape of Ramnagaram a small village about 30 miles from Bangalore), bandits on horseback, fierce gun fights etc. Sholay's phenomenal success can be attributed to perhaps the way it was able to blend the various items or 'masalas' required in a Hindi film in exactly the right doses. Practically every scene, dialogue and even a small character was a highlight. Even Dhanno, the horse of the tangewali, Hema Malini is remembered till today! Every small character be it the Jailer (Asrani), Mausi (Leela Mishra) or Sambha (Mac Mohan) - they are etched in viewer's minds.
In India, Sholay is not just a movie... it is a legend. There are people in India who remember each and every character of the movie vividly even now - 31 years after it was first released !!! this is the beauty of the film. Every character is so well sketched. It is the highest grossing film of all time in India. It has earned about Rs. 2,134,500,000, equivalent to US $ 50 million, after adjusting for inflation. It ran for 286 weeks straight in one Mumbai theatre, the Minerva. Using sentences like "Arre O Samba", "Ab Tera Kya Hoga Kaaliya?" mothers frightened their children with the name of Gabbar Singh. Sholay was loud, garish, but it had something which touched everyone's heart. Shot in 70mm with stereophonic sound, Sholay was the ultimate big screen experience. It was India's first film in 70 mm with stereophonic sound. Mention must be made of Dwarka Diwecha's stunning camera-work and R.D. Burman's evocative background score, which help elevate the film even further