The Thakur recruits Veeru and Jai
Former police chief Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev kumar) summons an old colleague and requests him to track down a pair of small-time thieves he once apprehended in the line of duty. The two petty criminals, Veeru (Dharmendra) and Jai (Amitabh Bachchan), are close pals who work together and share everything. They had encountered the Thakur in the past (as seen in a flashback), when after being caught by him trying to rob a train, he let them free temporarily to help him fight off bandits. The three succeeded in doing so, but as the Thakur lay unconscious after sustaining a wound, Veeru and Jai disputed over leaving him for dead and escaping (Veeru) or letting him live but facing jail themselves (Jai). The call was decided over a coin toss, which Jai won. Recollecting that experience, the Thakur explains that Veeru and Jai would be the ideal men to help him end the tyranny of Gabbar Singh(Amzad khan) - an infamous dacoit (bandit) wanted by the authorities for a Rs 50,000 reward. But money is not what the Thakur is after. Veeru and Jai are found and brought to Ramgarh. They are told by the Thakur that they are to bring Gabbar to him alive for Rs 20,000 plus the Rs 50,000 reward. After some difficulty in trusting each other, the Thakur demands Veeru and Jai's word and eventually Jai promises that they will do the job and he and Veeru decide to stay in Ramgarh to repel attacks from Gabbar's large gang.
The tyranny of Gabbar
Three of Gabbar's enforcers arrive in Ramgarh to collect supplies from the defenceless villagers. This time, however, they go back empty-handed, due to Veeru and Jai's intervention. The villagers show their gratitude by hailing their new heroes. In Gabbar's camp, the tyrant interrogates the three men he sent to Ramgarh about why they were defeated by only two men. His psychotic nature is shown when he subjects his men to a twisted version of Russian Roulette where all three survive against the odds. This event amuses Gabbar who begins to laugh uncontrollably at the bizarre occurrence and the unlikelyhood of it happening. His cackles get louder and louder, as his henchmen join in. The three men who have survived this ordeal are bemused but then relieved and slowly begin to laugh as well. As the sounds of all of Gabbar's army laughing like fools reverberate around the rocky camp, Gabbar suddenly stops laughing and uses the three remaining bullets to shoot the three men dead. Gabbar's plan to attack Ramgarh on Holi is put into action and in a much tougher battle this time, Veeru and Jai meet their match and are held at gunpoint. With his two recruits facing death, the Thakur has a chance to throw a gun to Veeru. But instead of helping, he simply stands stationary. With quick thinking, Veeru and Jai manage to save their lives but at the end state their intentions to walk away from Ramgarh, leaving the villagers to defend themselves, due to the Thakur's cowardice. But before they can, the Thakur tells them the real reason of why he wants Gabbar and why he couldnt help them. Some time ago, the Thakur had caught Gabbar and had him imprisoned only for the dacoit to escape and plot an evil revenge against him. Gabbar made his way to the Thakur's home and cold-bloodedly, killed his two sons, daughter, daughter-in-law and his only grandson. The only person in the family to survive this massacre was the Thakur's younger daughter-in-law, Radha(Jaya Bhaduri). The Thakur tracked down Gabbar but this time, the tyrant held the upper hand thanks to his gang and tortured him. Gabbar reminded the Thakur of his promise to come back and haunt him once he escaped and this was the day. Grabbing two swords, Gabbar maniacally approached the Thakur and ruthlessly amputated both his arms, although the Thakur survives it. The Thakur had shrouded this disability from Veeru and Jai, but now it was clear why he could not physically help them.
Living in Ramgarh, the cynical young Jai and lively Veeru find themselves growing fond of the villagers, taking pity on their sufferings under dacoit tyranny. Some of the villagers evoke more than fondness. Veeru is attracted to Basanti(Hema Malini), a feisty, talkative young woman who makes her living driving a horse-cart. However, Basanti's aunt, who, thanks to Jai's meddling, is reluctant to let Veeru marry her niece and only after Veeru takes drastic measures does she finally agree. Jai is drawn to Radha, the Thakur's reclusive widowed daughter-in-law, who very subtly returns his affections. The Thakur's servant, Ramlaal, tells of when Radha used to be full of life and colour until the day Gabbar killed her husband. After discussing it with Radha's father, the Thakur agrees that she can marry Jai. The duo also befriend other villagers and instill a belief of freedom from Gabbar's villainous regime. Among these are the blind imam and his son, Ahmed, who has been offered a job in the city, but refuses to leave his father all alone. He is eventually talked into going and sets off on his horse. On the way, he has the bad luck of running into Gabbar's henchmen. Ahmed is killed and returned with a message for Ramgarh: Hand over Veeru and Jai or suffer the same fate as the dead boy. As the villagers stand over Ahmed's body, they tell Veeru and Jai, that they can give away whatever wealth they have, but they cannot give away their children's lives. The Thakur, Veeru and Jai argue against ceding to Gabbar's threats, but only the imam, who has lost his son, convinces the villagers that they cannot simply give in to evil.
Veeru and Jai fight back and send a message back to Gabbar: For every villager killed by Gabbar, Veeru and Jai will avenge them by killing four of his men in return. Gabbar, angered by this, swears death on Jai, Veeru, the Thakur, and all of Ramgarh. The battle approaches its climax when Basanti and Veeru are captured and Jai follows. As Basanti is forced to dance by Gabbar to keep Veeru alive, Jai steadily gets through Gabbar's defences. Soon Jai is able to get into a position to shoot Gabbar and demands the release of his friends. Veeru and Basanti escape while Jai holds back the dacoits from a distance with a rifle. Once Veeru and Basanti are safe, Jai slowly draws back and heads for his friends, only to be wounded grievously by a bullet as he is running away. Jai is reunited with Veeru and Basanti where they realise they are running out of ammunition. As Veeru is unaware of Jai's wound, Jai orders him to go back to the village where he can take Basanti and then return with ammo. Veeru does not want Jai to face the bandits alone, so he suggests that Jai should go. The two dispute once more and resort to what has been their only method of resolution over the years - the coin. As it was earlier in the film, Veeru loses the toss and goes back to the village. Jai, slowly dying and with only a few bullets, manages to fend off advances by the bandits, who have hidden under a small bridge and have thrown a stick of dynamite that has failed to explode. Jai manages to get close enough to the dynamite and uses his last bullet to detonate it, taking out the bridge and most of Gabbar's men. Veeru returns to find Jai dying and sadly talks with him before he dies in his arms. Some of the villagers rush to the scene, including Radha, who once again must endure the anguish of losing someone. As Veeru wipes a tear, he notices Jai's old coin in his hand and then it dawns on him that he had been tricked by Jai all along. The coin was double-headed and Jai had managed to manipulate every situation that they disagreed on to his favour. Angry at his friend for sacrificing his life to save him, Veeru becomes hell-bent on revenge and goes after Gabbar. Veeru catches Gabbar and beats him up badly, about to finish him off. But before he can kill him, the Thakur appears and reminds him of the promise to bring Gabbar to him - alive. Veeru is ready to break his word to avenge Jai when he is told that it was Jai who made the promise. Unwilling to break Jai's promise, Veeru hands Gabbar over to the Thakur who reveals his spike-soled shoes, made to make Gabbar beg for a quick death.
Gabbar is kicked around by the Thakur but is saved in the nick of time by the police, who tell the Thakur that Gabbar must be arrested and dealt with by the law. As Gabbar is taken away, the Thakur is denied vengeance, but knows that Ramgarh is free once again. Jai's funeral takes place as Veeru stands all alone in front of the pyre. In the distance, Radha watches on through a window. With nothing more for him in Ramgarh, Veeru leaves on a train. But as he looks up, he sees that he is not alone. Basanti has also boarded the train and both she and Veeru leave Ramgarh together.