Trigger Warning: The review covers disturbing details of the case. Reader discretion is advised.
Three years ago, one of the most mysterious crimes of the decade prompted the residents of Burari to climb their rooftops only to catch one glimpse of what hit the national headlines.
Netflix’s House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths, a three-part docu-series created by Leena Yadav is brilliant as it does not attempt to answer the unsettled questions of 2018, instead tries to raise the questions that really matter.
Three generations of the Chundawat family, totalling eleven members, were discovered hanging in the living room ‘like the roots of a banyan tree’ in Burari one morning under mysterious circumstances.
A case so bizarre that it caused the chief minister, and other key individuals to appear at the crime site just an hour later, causing the rush of reporters to break the story first.
This docu-series however moves the grisly stories of the crime out of the way and attempts to expand a discourse surrounding the facets of an average Indian joint family.
Lalit, as per the stacks of 11 diaries found in the house claimed to have been possessed by the spirit of his late father, had a traumatic history. His PTSD was undiagnosed because visiting a psychiatrist would label him ‘crazy’ in the society. This instance itself proves how ignorant our society is towards seeking professional assistance for mental illness.
The show discreetly underlines the role of patriarchy in this mass suicide. How a middle-aged man, the leader of the mini-cult, ushered three men and seven women of the family into complete submission. It demonstrates how having zero agency and not asking the right questions would turn you into a puppet obeying unreasonable commands.
One thought that took my sleep away was how they blurred the line between faith and delusion. How on earth did 15 and 25-year-olds agree to gag their mouths and tie a noose around their neck in hopes of being saved by their dead grandfather?!
The series also made us wonder how, for a few hundred views, news channels chose to give the case a tantric twist and headlined the contractor’s daughter ‘Geeta maata’ as the brain behind the mass suicide just because she ‘looked’ like a tantric in a red saree. R.I.P journalism.
No wonder the cops stationed at Burari thaana say this case will stay with them for their lifetime unsure of what to tag it as? It’s neither a murder or a suicide, but rather an ‘accidental death’, as they call it.
The access that the filmmakers were granted of the House of Secrets was outright impressive. They could have rounded up the series taking words from a few neighbours and relatives but they chose to go for a stakeholder diversity instead. They brought psychologists, surgeons, prominent journalists and other key individuals into the picture who explored the untouched angles of the story that can potentially prohibit any further similar Burari deaths.
House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths powerfully depicted via Leena Yadav’s lens how family secrets and ignorance may escalate into catastrophic ramifications.