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What I thought of House of Secrets: Burari Deaths

Beyond the facade of familial bliss is a secret no one wants to know.

Every once in a while we come across something that forever stays in our minds. what makes such things even more permanent in our memories is that these things happen close to home. this is exactly what this gruesome tale will make you feel. In 2018, 11 members of the Chundawat family were discovered dead in their home in Sant Nagar, Burari, Delhi, with their eyes blindfolded. The gruesome incident serves as the basis for Leena Yadav's three-part docuseries House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths, which is based entirely on publicly available information. Before the case was closed, the widely publicized deaths were labeled as murders, leaving a trail of unanswered questions. But were they murders, mass suicides, or a mistake during a ritual? 

What I thought of House of Secrets: Burari Deaths

The narrative, similar to a movie, begins by talking about the many conspiracy theories that were circulating at the time about the case and ends by revealing the truth. What is most notable in this docuseries is how it emphasizes the family's view of untreated psychosis as supernatural. Incendiary media, religious adherents, and a patriarchal family order all contribute to the story's lack of clarity. 

Given that the psychological state of those who commit crimes is increasingly becoming a focus of real-life crime series, House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths sheds light on the lack of awareness about mental health even among well-to-do families living in metropolitan areas. House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths on Netflix avoids the exploitative tone that most true crime documentaries find irresistible, instead addressing the sociological and psychological aspects of a case that made national headlines in 2018. That title is the only thing that is as obscene as it wants to be.

The filmmakers were given admirably broad access in House of Secrets. A lesser show would have been perfectly content to round up the next of kin, a few journalists, and whichever cop was willing to talk and call it a day. However, House of Secrets incorporates several psychologists into the mix, providing a critical perspective that is typically lacking in such shows. The media portrayed the Burari deaths "only as bizarre," according to a clinical hypnotherapist in the show, but despite doing so for two entire episodes, House of Secrets presents itself to be something more valuable, and eventually more rewarding, in the final episode. After getting past the scandalous details of the story, co-directors Leena Yadav and Anubhav Chopra focus on the people — the neighbors, friends, and investigators, all of those who have been left with emotional scars that may never fully heal.

Even as jovial as one cop appears when recalling details of what is the biggest case of his life, he can't help but control his words when asked about the devastation that it has left behind. The officer freely admits that he is still asked about the Burari deaths, and his presence in the documentary proves his point. While arguing with his right-hand man whether what happened can be classified as suicide or murder, his partner enthusiastically describes it as an 'incidental death,' before quickly correcting himself: "Accidental death, I mean."

At the end of episode three, a family friend asks aloud, "Is there a God?" You get the impression that it's a question he's been wrestling with regularly since the deaths, as he inches closer to a clarity unlike any he's known before. Of course not, he says again, as if he was thinking aloud. And you have to admire the directors for ending the show on such a compelling, but potentially provocative, note.

It intrigued me that the makers chose not to acknowledge the significance of the number "11"; for the Bhatia family, that number was associated with the entire series. Viewers may be tempted to conclude that there is more to the story than just mental illness based on the 11 years of shared psychosis, 11 pipes sticking out from the walls, 11 family members, 11 prongs atop the entrance gate, and especially 11 diaries. 

A possible retrospective evaluation of the tragedy at the heart of this documentary is folie a famille, a common delusion within a family. The active individual who carries an abnormal belief in a Folie a deux is characterized by Lalit's aforementioned characteristics. In his case, he may have passed it down for eleven years through three generations of a family, leading to the most fatal outcome possible. Lalit ensured that his wife remained subservient in both a literal and metaphorical sense even while in one of his trances, which I found especially telling. The show lingers on moments like this, subtly highlighting the role patriarchy served in the deaths of the Buraris. I'm no expert but could being raised to believe that you have no control over your life make you more susceptible to manipulation by others? 

Perhaps the scariest part of the show is not the grim visuals or the 'creepy' narration, but the fact that what happened could have been any other 'normal' family's story. The premise is too predictable for us to ignore: a middle-income household, socially mobile, with educated members, and yet every warning sign goes unnoticed. While the incident may appear to be a distant memory, its significance remains as an eerie reminder of one's mind's intricate workings and individuals' vulnerability to outside influences. The docuseries serves as a constant reminder that, while the incident may appear to be extraordinary, the people who died were just like you and me — looking normal on the surface but struggling with their emotions.


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