ATN Signs Animated Epic Series The Legend of Ponnivala for Canadian Broadcast: In Tete-a-Tete with Dr. Brenda Beck, Producer of the Series

Source: The Sophia Hilton Foundation of Canada

The Sophia Hilton Foundation of Canada and Soft Science Associates, Ltd., creators of the animated Legend of Ponnivala series, have signed on with the Asian Television Network for Canadian broadcast of the 26-episode series. The series is slated to launch in English on ATN in late April, with a Tamil-language broadcast planned for the summer.

The Legend of Ponnivala tells the story of the epic South Indian heroes Ponnar and Shankar. It also relates the origins of their family, back to the founding of the region two generations earlier. It is a surprisingly expansive tale for a local legend, and includes a wealth of historical and social insights into medieval Indian culture. It draws inspiration and characters from the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata, while keeping its focus on farming, the lifestyle central to its place of origin.

Speaking exclusively to’s Zeenia Boatwala about this broadcasting deal, Dr. Brenda Beck, Creator and Producer of The Legend of Ponnivala shares, “I am very happy about this contract. When I met with ATN’s CEO, Dr. Shan Chandresekar, we realized we were on the same page with this series. He had seen the Legend of Ponnivala trailers and was enthusiastic about the prospect of adding it to the network’s family lineup. I felt that the broadcast potential and strength that ATN was offering would be a great vehicle to get the series out to the widest possible audience, Asian and non-Asian alike. The plan to broadcast in both English and Tamil reflects a fitting balance between the story’s Kongu roots and its modern re-telling in English”

The Legend of Ponnivala has previously been seen only as a feature film in select international settings. One extended excerpt received a nomination for Best Animated Film (Home Video) at the 2012 FICCI BAF Awards in India. Another extract was a featured presentation at the MOSAIC International South Asian Film Festival in Mississauga, Ontario.

Dr. Brenda Beck, Adjunct Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, adds more, “ Now that its premiere Canadian broadcast has opened the door, we’re looking to build on that momentum and get in touch with additional networks in order to really move the story forward onto an international stage.”

The Legend of Ponnivala is derived from a vast, ancient Hindu folktale tradition from South India’s Kongu region. The story has traditionally been told through song and passed down through generations of singing bards. One such performance was captured on over forty hours of audio tape in 1965 by Dr. Brenda Beck, who directed the series. Art and animation on the project began in 2008. Animator Ravichandran Arumugam, whose grandfather was a traditional singer of the epic, was brought on board to lead the art and animation team.

Informing more on the story line of this series, Dr. Brenda, highlights, “In retelling The Legend of Ponnivala, I have tried to stay as faithful as possible to the story’s original style and content as I recorded it in 1965. At that time, the only place it existed was in the tales of the singing bards of the Kongu region, and it was only by chance that I was able to capture and preserve it on audio tape. This very colourful tale depicts the life of farmers in medieval South India through the adventures of three generations of local kings. Due to a curse, the royal family is forced to confront jealous outsiders who threaten their sovereignty over the land of Ponnivala.

Shares further, “The story has very close ties to other Indian epics, and has even been called a ‘local Mahabharata.’ Because this epic is only really known in selected parts of Tamilnadu, it is fresh and unique, but its size and scope certainly make it powerful enough to stand alongside other great world epics like the Odyssey or Beowulf.”

Also involved in the project is award-winning Celtic musician and world music expert Steafan Hannigan, along with the voice talents of Sivakumar, Sumit Bhatia, Lata Pada, Afroz Khan, Ishwar, and Sanjay Talreja.

“The Legend of Ponnivala” is an epic adventure story for all ages. Part mythology, part fairytale, part historical drama and part action series, Ponnivala promises to delight and entertain viewers of all ages and across all cultures.

On the closing note, Dr. Brenda, expresses, “The Legend of Ponnivala is more than just a TV series. We’ve already released a comic book set in both print and digital formats on our website. It is being taught in elementary schools in Canada, using our lesson plans plus creative added exercises thought up by teachers.  The story provides a unique window on ancient Indian culture, and is even being used as an exhibit at Canada’s Royal Ontario Museum this spring. The whole scope of the project is so much more than just a television series, but with this broadcast the breadth of its cultural, educational, and entertainment value will now be revealed to a much wider audience than we could possibly reach on our own.

If you would like to learn more about the Canada-India Legend of Ponnivala project, please contact Dr Brenda Beck at [email protected]