Jai (Amit-ji) and Veeru (Dharmendra) are best friends and partners in crime. They roam the countryside, singing about their friendship, hanging from vines, stealing motorbikes, and the like. They decide to have a friend turn them in for the reward money that's offered for their capture, arranging to split the payoff with him. Surprise, surprise, the friend wants all the cash and betrays them to the police after they escape from jail. (I'm completely skipping over a SuperFantastic Bollywood WTF side-plot involving a vaudeville-style-Hitler-esque prison warden and Jai and Veeru's antics while imprisoned. Trust me, you're not missing anything.)
However, fate has different plans than a rock quarry for Jai and Veeru. A former law enforcement official (I never did understand who exactly he worked for) who now is a landlord remembers their bravery and honor in a tough situation from many years back, and is looking to hire the two as mercenaries to deal with a dacoit (which means bandit) who's been terrorizing his village. The Thakur (played by Sanjeev Khumar with old-school style and gravitas) arranges to have Jai and Veeru released and transported to his home.
The Thakur offers a massive amount of money in addition to the reward already posted for Gabbar Singh's capture. However, he also extracts a promise from the other two men to bring Gabbar Singh to him alive. An initial scuffle with three dacoits goes well, with Jai and Veeru easily defeating the goons and earning kudos from the villagers.
When they return to their rocky, mountain-surrounded campsite, the bandits confess all to Gabbar Singh, who then reveals himself to be the Evillest Evil Evildoer EVER through a sadistic game of Russian roulette. Did I mention that he's probably going to Hell?
Back at the village, Jai and Veeru play Holi.
Sholay is full of great scenes that I couldn't look away from, like Helen's hip-twitching wonder-powers in "Mehbooba:"
Holy mother. Not to mention the many adorable scenes between real-life couple Dharmendra and Hema (I especially like the one where he's pretending to be a divine revelation), the poignant longing between Amitabh and Jaya, the awesome buddy pyaari between Jai and Veeru, the amazing scene wherein Basanti dances for Veeru's life... It's a long train of classic moments, and worth watching just so I can finally get the near-constant references made to the film in subsequent Hindi movies.
Of course, it wouldn't be a masala movie without a few SuperFantastic Bollywood moments. (Spoilers ahead!) There is, of course, the freaky Hitler-lite in the early prison scenes, the jumpy cutting and near-endless supply of goons galloping across the countryside, overlong chase scenes, total camp melodrama ("Give me your ARMS, Thakur!"), and some truly grisly violence.
However, they only add to the overall charm of Sholay. At the end, my husband turned to me and said, "You never would have watched that if it hadn't been an Indian film." True, true, and yet I wouldn't have wanted to watch it if it hadn't been a Hindi film either. Sholay is, of course, worth every penny.