Straight From the Heart (1999)

Straight From the Heart

I am a huge fan of Bollywood films. Where the often jaded American viewer finds them too loud and immature, I revel in the Disney-esque love stories, the bright colors of the absurdly ostentatious wardrobe, the never-ending song and dance and the inevitable happy endings. I also revel in the extraordinary beauty of Bollywood’s most famous actress, Aishwarya Rai.

Ash (as she’s been nicknamed) started acting and modeling at a very young age and her near perfect facial symmetry and blue-green eyes certainly didn’t hurt her popularity. But, as fellow beauty Angelina Jolie once said, too much beauty can hurt an actresses career; she won’t be given serious roles and sometimes, despite her talent, the audience won’t be able to see past her looks and give credit to her ability to do anything other than simply be. So despite speaking several languages and having once been a pre-med student, all critics and many audiences ever saw when they saw Rai was the pretty face that had won Miss World in 1994. In “Straight From the Heat”, Rai doesn’t simply revolutionize the traditional Bollywood romance, she proves without question that she is a seriously gifted actress.

This film centers around a young woman from a traditional (and ludicrously rich) Indian family who falls in love with her father’s latest pupil, an aspiring singer. As a famous singer himself, her father has taken this young man, who has traveled all the way from Italy to get voice lessons from the very best, under his wing. The student, who is fatherless, half-Indian, and almost completely destitute wants to make something of himself so that he can help his mother back in Italy. That is, until he lays eyes on his instructor’s daughter.

The two fall in love but hide it, knowing that the girl’s family would never understand or approve but, as her parents are arranging a “suitable” match for her, a meddling aunt brings the romance to light and her father, who’d never requested payment from his pupil, demands that he leave and never come back as payment for services rendered, which he does, though not without heartbreak for them both.

Enter the girl’s new husband, who is completely in love with her and has no idea that she’s pining for a lost love love in Italy. But he gets caught up to speed when he catches her reading letters from her departed love. And that’s when we see one of the greatest acts of love ever to be caught on film: Her husband, rather than abuse her or publicly shame her, decides to take his wife to Italy to find her lost love, even though the decision and each act following it is killing him.

The woman has to ultimately decide between two men, both of whom love her deeply, but the true sacrifice is on the part of her husband, a man of affluence and influence, who is willing to strip himself of pride and humble himself completely to the desire’s of his wife’s heart, knowing all the while that he occupies no place there.

“Straight From the Heart” is a reminder that love isn’t always easy, beautiful or requited, but true love is always selfless. Selflessness, compromise and sacrifice all lie at the heart of love, and the ability to do what you want the least for no other reason that it’s what the one you love wants most, that is beautiful.

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