Manu Dhingra on the Making of “Asha”

Manu Dhingra
Advertising and Marketing Communications ’98; International Trade and Marketing ’99

Manu Dhingra, a 9/11 survivor who suffered second- and third-degree burns to 40 percent of his body after escaping from the World Trade Center, has produced a documentary about his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and how he discovered a passion for cooking that has aided his recovery and contributed to his sense of hope.

What moved you to make this film?
I felt it might help someone who went through something traumatic. The idea that recovery doesn’t take place overnight. It’s a long process and you just can’t give up. Have to fight to get back your life.

What to you is significant about the 10th anniversary of 9/11?
I have thought of the ten year date as a date where I would evaluate where my life was.  The more I worked on the project and was honest with where I was with my recovery, I realized I had a long way to go. For me it’s only the begining. I hope I can continue to build towards the life that I envisioned for myself before the attacks.

How did you come to work with Shira and Cano?
Shira is a good friend of mine and we met at my previous restaurant. I told her about my story and she thought I should share it . She knew cano and he is a great guy with a lot  of talent.

What is the significance of the film’s title?
The title Asha means hope in hindi.  Its also the name of my mom. It means a lot for me to name it after her.

What message do you hope people take away after watching Asha?
I hope that people can relate to the film. That life will not be easy and you ll face many challenges, some you can prepare for and others you can’t. You just got to keeping going and not give up hope.

How has cooking played a role in your recovery?
Cooking brought me peace. I don’t claim to be the best chef in the world but just using my hands made me feel really good. I was self conscious about my skin grafts. But cooking forced me to look at my hands everyday and it helped me mentally get over what insecurities I was feeling.

Do you foresee future projects?
I am excited about the future. I am a partner in GluttNY. It’s a special events company. We do innovative pop ups around the city.

For more information about the film, please visit www.ashathefilm.com.

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