In ancient times in Persia, in the picturesque mountainous terrain, among the rocks and trees is the family of the rich villager Masud. Every summer evening, Mirza, the daughter of Masud, awaits with fear and trepidation the return from the hunting of Rustan. This is the nephew of Masud, who also at night looks for among the mountain peaks “what can not be found,” the girl sighs sadly. She watches, as peacefully they return home, to their families, other hunters, their neighbors. The father and daughter want to understand their “shalo” Rustana, who does not know rest, dreaming about battles and deeds, power and glory. He stopped loving work in the field and around the house, he is attracted to the danger of hunting. Mirza thinks that in Rustan, so calm and reserved before, the negro-slave Zanga, who has appeared in their house, is affected, in whose mind only battles and victories.
Massoud had heard rumors that Rustan had seriously quarreled over hunting with Osmine, the son of the Samarqand emir. Masud understands that the nephew hides it from him, so as not to hear reproaches. Rustan, in fact, hides from his uncle, not wanting to admit his suffering to him. He is ready to answer for his actions. Now for Rustan the main thing is to take revenge on the impudent Osmin, to prove his strength. Zanga, as an eyewitness, describes a quarrel that could end in bloodshed, if participants were not separated. Hunters gathered in the clearing to rest and chat. The spoiled son of the emir boasted of his victories in love. He said that the ruler of Samarkand, who is increasingly difficult to defend himself against enemies, promises to give the throne and his daughter as a reward to the one who will overcome the enemy hordes. Rustan was already ready to rush into the road.
Zanga plays on the ambition of Rustan, encourages decisive actions. Rustan thinks so too, because his ancestors were warriors, and the present life seems to him pitiful and uninteresting. From now on his motto is strong with the weak. He does not doubt that success will come in the process of daring and “what you seize, it’s yours.”
Masud kindly tries to reason with his nephew, to keep him in the family, next to the sensitive and gentle Mirza. But Rustan now owns another passion and, finding no way out, she can destroy his life. The fire of the fight is burning in his chest. He declares that he leaves the house in the morning. Do not stop Rustana, even the last argument of his uncle: he is loved by Mirza. Rustan also loves Mirza, which means that he will return to her with a victory.
Rejoicing in the coming day, which will give him a new life, Rustan goes to bed. He hears quiet sounds of the harp and a song sung by an old dervish. The song is famous for true human values: truthful thought, kindness and love. Earthly goods are deceit, vanity. “Life is a dream.” Rustan falls asleep, and in his dream he sees a huge serpent with a golden face… Everything that follows is already happening in Rustan’s dreams. Away from home and family, he enjoys freedom, when there is “no home, no order, no worries, no ban” when he first feels himself a man. But Rustan does not forget about the case, he needs to rush to Samarkand to gain power and glory. Zanga supports him closely and with his will. On the way, the travelers meet a richly dressed man, fleeing from the snake. He turns out to be the king of Samarkand. Rustan tries to kill the snake with his spear, but does not fall into it. The snake is hit by another spear, launched from a high rock by a stranger in a brown cloak. Laughing at Rustan’s awkwardness, the stranger disappears. At this time, the king, who has lost consciousness for a while, comes to his senses. He regards Rustan as his savior, which confirms Zang, keeping his embarrassed master from explaining. In the king’s mind, another image of an arrow, a man on a rock in a brown cloak, vaguely flashes. Here appears the entourage of the king and his daughter Gulnara, grateful to the “hero” and subdued by him, so modest, but strong. The king gives Rustan his dagger, adorned with precious stones, as the first reward. And already there is a hint of the main award, causing joyful embarrassment in both young people. Laughing at Rustan’s awkwardness, the stranger disappears. At this time, the king, who has lost consciousness for a while, comes to his senses. He regards Rustan as his savior, which confirms Zang, keeping his embarrassed master from explaining. In the king’s mind, another image of an arrow, a man on a rock in a brown cloak, vaguely flashes. Here appears the entourage of the king and his daughter Gulnara, grateful to the “hero” and subdued by him, so modest, but strong. The king gives Rustan his dagger, adorned with precious stones, as the first reward. And already there is a hint of the main award, causing joyful embarrassment in both young people. Laughing at Rustan’s awkwardness, the stranger disappears. At this time, the king, who has lost consciousness for a while, comes to his senses. He regards Rustan as his savior, which confirms Zang, keeping his embarrassed master from explaining. In the king’s mind, another image of an arrow, a man...
Rustan shares his experiences with Zanga. He is happy and does not fear anything. From an unknown shooter, if it appears, you can generously pay off. All the same, the hearts of the king and his daughter already belong to him. Unexpectedly, before the deceivers, a stranger appears with a brown cloak in his hands. Quietly listening to threats, persuasions and generous promises, the stranger advises Rustan to live his glory, and not a stranger. He continues his journey to the royal court. Overcoming fear and hesitation, Rustan rushes after him and detains on the bridge over the mountain stream. They fight, the stranger is stronger, but at the last moment Rustan manages to thrust into the chest an unarmed dagger, donated by the king. The enemy falls into the river and dies. At first Rustan feels regret and horror, but he is already called to the court by the tsar’s messengers. He must immediately lead the tsarist army.
In Samarkand, after a brilliant victory over the Tiflis khan, Rustana is surrounded by universal recognition, fame and love. Zanga alone saw how, at the decisive moments of the battle, Rustan fell from his horse as the khan approached. But the army began to take revenge for his beloved leader, and the enemy fled. And now the hero already accepts honors as the savior of the province.
Meanwhile, the corpse of a murdered man with a royal dagger in his chest and a brown cloak are found in the river. It recognizes one of the court king, whom he disliked and expelled from the capital for claims to the daughter’s hand. Relatives of the murdered suspect the king.
Without wanting it, the king begins to understand the fateful role of Rustan in history with the snake and in the death of the courtier. The noble ruler has to express his views in the face of the one to whom he wants to entrust the country and daughter. He gives him a night to find excuses, if by morning they do not exist, the best men of the army decide on the advice of the guilty party. After all, the king himself must be justified before his people. Gulnare, he does not reveal secrets yet.
But Rustan feels smarter and stronger than everyone. With the help of an old sorceress who has seen through the “handsome man,” he manages to poison the king. The wine falls on the old father of the murdered nobleman.
The army raises a riot, wanting to have Rustan as ruler. Gulnara asks for his protection, proposing to share with him the royal crown. While Rustan is forced to do this, although he decided to become a full-fledged ruler.
The cruel rule of Rustan does not last long. A conspiracy ripens, the truth opens with the poisoning of the king. Gulnara understands what an irreparable mistake her father and she made, trusting herself with the love that sheds the blood of the innocent. But even convicted of all crimes, Rustan is confident of his superiority over people and demands from Gulnara to transfer to him all power over the country. But not always the “strongest of rights”, the army moves to the side of the fair Gulnara. The warriors pursue the fleeing Rustan and Zangu. Fleeing from them, Rustan jumps into the river from the very bridge where he killed a man, and – wakes up.
A terrible dream still dominates him for a while. Then, with the help of Mirza and Masud, he is convinced that only a dream – one night, and not a whole life, a terrible life – shared it with relatives. He hardly comes to himself and joyfully, relievedly aware that he is innocent, did not commit murders, that he can find a peace of mind – and this is the most important thing.
Kneeling before Massoud, Rustan asks him to fulfill three requests: to take him back to his family, to release Zanga for freedom and, of course, to give his beloved Mirza for him. For the first two requests, Masud readily agrees. Then he warns his nephew, because dreams are the “hidden desires” of life – “follow yourself, my son.” Happy Mirza hurries father with the answer and the last request.