The house of secrets is a soul stirring three part documentary series that got released recently on Netflix and is trending widely. It is on the fateful day in Delhi’s life when in June 2018, eleven members of the same family were found hanging and dead in the same house in a cluttered area of Burari in New Delhi. The incident had shaken the conscience of the entire city by the sheer suddenness of the death of 11 members in the Chundavat family known more popularly as the Bhatia family in the neighborhood. The family was known to the neighbours as this loving caring and united joint family that ran a mom and pop store in the neighbourhood.
The family included Narayani Devi who was 80, sons Bhuvnesh aged 50, Lalit 45, daughters-in-law Savita aged 48, and Tina aged 42, daughter Pratibha Bhatia aged 57; and grandchildren Priyanka (daughter of Pratibha) aged 33, Nitu (elder daughter of Bhuvnesh) aged 25, Monu (younger daughter of Bhuvnesh) aged 23, Dhruv (youngest son of Bhuvnesh) aged 15, and Shivam (only child of Lalit) aged 15. More shocking in the original incident was that just before the family hung committed mass suicide in a fit of mass hysteria there was a happy engagement function that had happened in the family.
The engagement ceremony of Priyanka had taken place just a fortnight ago. The family or the breadwinner of the family Deepak who allegedly convinced the entire family to take this step had shown no tell-tale signs of any discord or disturbed behavior. The film created by Leena Yadav and Anubhav Chopra traverses through the spaces, back stories through bystanders, relatives and police officers' accounts to unravel the mysteries that drove the family to take this extreme step.
On the surface of it the series looks like it is about how the family indulged in an occult practice and how their willing participation went all wrong ending in the death of all the family members. However, the second and the third episode reveals as to how despite having a bustling neighbourhood and many neighbours for company a family almost surrendered to Deepak’s psychotic behavior and behaved and obeyed him resulting in everyone’s death.
Speaking with journalists and social commentators it also looks at the social intersection as to how the female members of the family right from the middle aged and young women folk to the eighty year old matriarch of the family willingly agreed to undergo a strange ritual to reunite with Deepak’s father.
The series is an attempt not just at documenting or re-creating an incident that happened in 2018 and shook Delhi’s social conscience to the core. It is an honest attempt at unraveling the fault lines in the society that leads to a photo-perfect family to behave in the absolute irrational way.
The diaries that were recovered from the spot in which Deepak wrote what was supposed to be orders from his dead father, his own troubled past and how he compensated for it by assuming an almost god-man like presence in the family makes this film almost a psychological thriller.
It also raises important questions about the importance of mental health in our society and how a sensation seeking media purported and propagated irrational theories in the name of reporting. The linear storytelling of the documentary is a scope of improvement that the makers could have delved upon. However, this shortcoming is compensated with a gripping storyline told with solid research. A disturbing yet well narrated story based on a real life incident.