“Of course, Mummy,” responds Zoya Nayani, the main character of Pebbles to Penguins: A Story of Renewal. Zoya’s definite statement is not unlike the responses of many people when asked, “Are you okay?” Entrenched in the context of the pandemic — like nearly everyone else in the world — the directors of Pebbles to Penguins are committed to uncovering the psychological subtext of these conversations.

Pebbles to Penguins is an original production to air on The Ismaili TV during the Navroz weekend. The production was an immense undertaking, the results of which are a testament to the hard work and dedication of over 50 volunteers from around the world. Videographers, directors, editors, actors, and musicians from Dubai, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Kenya, Canada, India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tajikistan came together to create this original production during the Covid-19 pandemic in only six weeks, while also respecting all safety regulations.

Screenwriter Samira Noorali and producer Farah Remtulla have been working together on artistic projects since 2017. Best known for co-directing the stage production of Stories: Our American Journey, they have been focused on the creation of music and theatrical projects with devotional overtones. This Navroz, they embark on their first joint film project with the hopes of solidifying the message: Everyone can manage their own personal wellbeing, as well as support their brethren through mental health challenges.

The piece spans the year from Navroz 2020 to Navroz 2021 and offers us all a chance to step back and really reflect upon what we have been through. The pebbles referenced in the title are a recurring theme throughout the production, representing the obstacle-filled year we have all endured.

“Many people do not even realise that they have had mental health challenges this year,” said Farah.

“To me, Navroz is a chance to do better for yourself and your community,” Samira said, while reflecting on the importance of new beginnings. “When art transcends entertainment and escape, we begin to realise it is relevant and necessary for progress.” 

She also expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in this film project saying, “I got a chance to contextualise the work of several Ismaili music artists within a true-to-life story of a person with real struggles.”

Farah reflected on how the penguin theme came about while watching a nature documentary with her daughter. Penguins are known to be social creatures — they spend much of their lives attached to a colony, and they swim and feed together. Finding a lone penguin is rare — they cooperate with each other to increase their chances of survival.

“I’m in awe that this global film production came together in only six weeks' time. That’s the power of our community. We really are like the penguins that Nani (a character in the film) loves so much.”

Tune in on 20-21 March at the.ismaili/tv for this special Navroz programme. Check the.ismaili/navroz2021 for timings and additional information.