Though there were a number of films on dacoits and 'thakurs' earlier, Sholay was a different genre in films altogether. Its unprecedented success broke all records and in some theaters, the film ran for as long as one whole year. Sholay was a multistarrer. Top stars like Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Sanjeev Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri dotted the film, but it was the new actor Amjad Khan who walked away with the honor of immortalizing 'Gabbar Singh' in our minds. Sholay is the story of a cop who arrests a dreaded dacoit and puts him in jail. Furious and mad with revenge, the dacoit escapes from prison and wipes off 'thakur's entire family. The dacoit also chops off the hands of the 'thakur'. It is now the 'thakur's turn to avenge the murder of his family and he does it from outside police system. The 'thakur' hires two notorious criminals and trains them to confront the dacoit. The rest of the film has camaraderie of the two criminals who are also bosom buddies, their romantic flings, the face-offs with the 'thakur' and finally the war against the dreaded dacoit 'Gabbar Singh'. In the violence of killing 'Gabbar Singh', one of the friends dies.
The writer duo Salim-Javed (Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar) had earlier approached director Manmohan Desai with the script. Apparently, Manmohan Desai was busy shooting for his film Chacha Bhatija (1977) and could not take up this project.