Desa Munnetram (English: Development of the Nation) is a 1938 Indian Tamil film, dealing with the issue of untouchability. Produced by Sarvotham Badhami and directed by Mahindra, the film features an ensemble cast, including Mathrimangalam Natesa Iyer, K. R. Chellam, ‘Baby' Rukmini, S. R. Padma, Sripatha Shankar, Govindarajulu Naidu, Seetha Devi, M. Lakshmanan, K. S. Gopalakrishnan and Kokilam. The film opened to critical acclaim and was commercially successful, however it is lost.
In a small kingdom, Murugan (Natesa Iyer), who comes from a downtrodden community, fights for the eradication of untouchability. His eight-year-old daughter Madhavi (Baby Rukmini) also joins him in his fight. During a village festival, the little girl goes near the deity and is penalised for her behaviour — she and her friend, a hunchback, are beaten up.
A prince of the kingdom is involved in an accident, Murugan saves him and is duly rewarded with money. The unexpected boon helps him send his daughter to college and she acquires an M.A. Degree. In college, she falls in love with a young man who has no idea about her origins. More complications arise like entry into the local temple by the downtrodden becoming an issue. Finally they march into the temple in a peaceful procession and the lovers marry.Mathrimangalam Natesa Iyer as Murugan
Baby Rukmini as Madhavi
K. R. Chellam
S. R. Padma
K. S. Gopalakrishnan
After Tamil cinema started producing talkie films, beginning with Kalidas in 1931, some socially conscious filmmakers began to make films, highlighting the Indian independence movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and other Indian freedom fighters. One of them was K. Subramanyam, who made films such as Bhaktha Chetha and Thyaga Bhoomi. One such film highlighting the issue of untouchability was Desa Munnetram. Produced for Sagar Movietone, a Bombay-based company, by noted multilingual filmmaker Sarvotham Badhami and directed by Mahindra, the film had Carnatic musician Mathirimangalam Natesa Iyer in the lead. The story and screenplay were by N. R. Desai, while A. N. Kalyanasundaram wrote the dialogues.
Desa Munnetram's original soundtrack and lyrics were done by Papanasam Sivan and Kalyana Sundaram who were also assistants to director Mahindra.
Desa Munnetram was very well received by the press and critics, whilst becoming a commercially successful venture at the box office.
In 2011, Randor Guy, writing for The Hindu, called the film a "masterstroke of communal equality", while concluding that the film would be "remembered for its thematic content, patriotic songs and the performances by Baby Rukmini and Natesa Iyer". However, no print of Desa Munnetram is known to exist presently, making it a lost film.