Netflix’s House of Secrets tells us the story of the Burari deaths. On 1st July 2018, the bodies of 11 members of the Chundawat family were found dead at their residence in north Delhi’s Burari. “The Burari deaths” as it came to be known was picked up by news media and the story was sensationalised. Theories about the cause of the family’s death ranged from murder to a tantrik convincing the family to commit suicide.
Warning: This article contains elements that might seem disturbing to some.
Reader discretion is advised.
But the reality was far more disturbing and, I daresay, intriguing. The deaths seem to have been caused by “shared psychosis“. Psychosis is a condition where the mind loses touch with reality and perceives things that others do not. When this condition is shared by a group of people, it is known as shared psychosis. All 11 members of the Chundawat family, who died that night, seem to have fallen victim to this condition.
House of Secrets, though 3 episodes, gives us a 360 degree perspective of all that transpired – from the moment the bodies were discovered to how the case was solved. And while, on the face, the documentary might seem like it is just about the Chundawat family, it is really an analysis of Indian society and news media.
Once you realise the mental health issue the Chundawat family was going through, you can’t help but wonder how everyone who knew them missed it. Through the documentary, you see how the family was fairly social and even hosted an engagement party just a few days before the incident. Neighbours stand on roofs overlooking the Chundawat house to talk about how they would speak to them standing at that exact spot a few years ago. They tell us how their children used to play with the Chundawat children. How did no one – not their friends and extended family – realise that the people living in that house in Burari’s Sant Nagar were victims of shared psychosis? The answer, I guess boils down to “family secrets”, superstitions, and lack of awareness about mental health.
House of Secrets, holds a mirror to the Indian society and brings to attention the problems with our culture of “obey and then question”. It also brings to light how relevant conversations about mental health are in a country like India where superstitions take various forms to explain things that seem out of the ordinary.
The documentary goes on to take a deep dive into the prevalence of such mythmaking in Indian news channels. It shows how our channels came up with ridiculous theories that were better fit for an Ancient Aliens episode than on national news.
House of Secrets brings to light something we know already – that our news media is just a TRP hungry beast. But when you actually see how far they can go to sensationalise news, you get a far better perspective of how bad things really are. And that realisation is very important given the tamasha we’ve seen on screen in the recent past.
Also Read: Documentaries We Recommend You Should Watch
So don’t go into House of Secrets thinking it is an episode of Crime Patrol. It is much more, for though it takes you through the case at hand, it throws a lot of questions at the viewer and leaves them pondering about the environment that led to the tragedy. And that is what makes it a good documentary.
What are you waiting for? Go watch House of Secrets on Netflix now!