Review: House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths

On July 1, 2018, 11 family members, four male and seven female, were hanged in their home’s living room in Delhi’s Burari locality. The family’s dog, who was chained to the roof, was the sole survivor. Its violent barking was not noted until more than 24 hours had passed following the incident.

Videos and photographs that went viral rocked the country, showcasing 11 members dangle from the roof, their necks surrounded with colourful dupattas, their wrists and legs shackled with wire, blinded, choked, and their ears plugged with cotton. It was almost strange, like something out of a mystery novel.

The case made the headlines for weeks when it was moved from local police to the crime branch. However, authorities couldn’t ascertain for months that why an educated and functional family committed suicide in what appeared to be a very well, precisely prepared incident.

According to media reports, the authorities considered other possibilities, including murder, but CCTV video revealed that no stranger had visited the property in the 24 hours preceding the incident. The investigation was eventually closed, leaving a trail of unsolved questions. On October 8, Netflix released House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths, a documentary series directed by Leena Yadav.

This documentary series consists of three 45-minute episodes, leading viewers through the incident and the various ideas surrounding it without publicizing the problem. The series does emphasize the “absurdity,” “shock-value,” and “bizarreness” of the whole “operation” through the testimony of specialists, crime reporters, law enforcement officials, psychiatrists, physicians who performed the autopsy and other vital sources. Even if one is familiar with the case, the tale is fascinating.

As per the inquiry, the youngest and most mentally ill son, Lalit, started the event. He demanded the complete capitulation of the other family members, including two 15-year-old boys and two 25-year-old women. However, handwritten notes discovered in family diaries showed that Lalit was “possessed by the spirit” of his deceased father and that the other members unconditionally followed his demands.

The family hung themselves from an iron grill connected to the roof after he ordered them to do a ‘badd puja,’ a Hindu ceremony summoning a banyan tree. The tragedies occurred just 13 days after one of the daughters, Priyanka, an MBA alumna, was engaged, and family members were spotted dancing and enjoying. They were on the rise with a solid social media presence.

The documentary series was shot in Burari’s bylanes, and archived media clips were utilized to recreate sequences. Because of a good screenplay, the effect is terrifying. One is likely to feel sensations at the end of the series. The disadvantage is that there is no sense of completion. Even though a panel of specialists dissects Lalit’s psychology and the family’s relationships, the viewer is left to guess than answer.