Manu Dhingra and I met two years ago at Bunny Chow, a South African restaurant he owned in Manhattan's Lower East Side. He plied me with South African pinotages and open invitations to his native India, so we became fast friends. Our morning routine was to meet for tea and sit outside on the shady side of Orchard Street. Over time, Manu opened up about the skin grafts and scars running up his arms and across his hands. When he was ready, he shared with me what happened to him on the morning of September 11, 2001.
Manu had just started a job at Andover Brokerage. His office was in the World Trade Center and on the 83rd floor of Tower 1. That day he was just a few minutes late to work. As many of us remember, it was a strikingly beautiful and quiet day. Manu recalls a cute girl riding the elevator with him. They made eye contact and shared a smile. Manu was giddy when he stepped off the elevator, anticipating the next time he'd run into her. He never saw her again. Just as the doors closed behind him there was a loud explosion. An intense heat struck his body and surrounded him like a ball of fire. American Airlines flight 11 slammed into the 85th floor of his building.
Together with director CaNo Rojas, we peeled away the layers of Manu's life over the last decade. We learned what helped Manu's emotional recovery is his love for cooking. A passion for cooking has helped Manu triumph over his PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This short film illustrates and articulates some of that emotional journey.
With over 40% of his body suffering from 2nd & 3rd degree burns, Manu spent years in physical therapy before he could even address his emotional self. Numbed by PTSD, he traveled the world in search of meaning and guidance on how to live the rest of his life. Manu ultimately enrolled in culinary school where he tackled his fears of fire and explosions -- also confronting his insecurities about his physical appearance.
Our goal is to share a part of Manu's story of hope and recovery with the world. "Asha" sheds some light on PTSD in Manu's life. Ten years later, we don't want to replay the horrors of planes crashing into buildings. Instead, we want to share the story of one man reborn out of flames and filling still with hope.
What We Need & What You Get
We are nearly finished "Asha" but need your help to complete this beautiful and moving short film. We are in post production with final editing, sound, and music scoring scheduled and awaiting that final go ahead to push through and complete in time for our September 11, 2011 premiere. We need that extra help to make this film as beautiful and heartfelt as we know it to be. In addition to the online premiere, we are hosting a large screening at FIT University in NYC. We're also entering "Asha" into short film festivals. All of this costs money. Our goal is not to profit monetarily on this film -- we simply want to go viral and essentially share "Asha" with everyone. Our ambition is to have as many people as possible spend seven minutes witnessing Manu's beautiful story. We hope to exceed our $5,000 goal to finish this film for you all to see on 09.11.11. We have some awesome and exciting perks to share with you as well!