Review: 'House Of Secrets: The Burari Deaths'

Post by: Rick Ellis 06 November, 2021

"There is a fine line between faith and delusion"

That's a quote from a psychologist midway through the three episode Netflix true crime limited series House Of Secrets: The Burari Deaths and it's a pretty solid explanation of the unbelievable events that inspired this special.

In 2018, police in the New Delhi area of Burari discovered a horrifying scene: 11 members of the Chundawat family were found hanging in the central room of their apartment. The bodies resembled vines hanging from a native Banyan tree and the three generations of mostly women has been bound with wire at their hands and feet, blindfolded, gagged and had their ears plugged with cloth. 

As you might imagine, the story quickly became a national sensation in India, with theories ranging from murder to some form of ritualistic suicide. Police quickly decided the murder idea didn't fit the facts, but neither did suicide. Two weeks before the deaths, the family had held an engagement party for 25-year-old Priyanka. It seemed impossible to believe that a newly engaged MBA graduate would willingly participate in some suicide pact. To say nothing of the family's two fifteen-year-old boys. 

Camera footage from outside the home was quickly discovered and it revealed that no outsiders had been inside the Chundawat family home that night. But even stranger, it showed various members of the family outside in the street laughing and joking with neighbors as they returned from shopping trips with sets of stools and rolls of wire.

But when police discovered a series of diaries inside the home, the explanation of how the deaths occurred came into focus, and without giving too much away, it's an explanation that is rooted deeply in the mores of Indian society. 

That look into Indian society is much of the reason why House Of Secrets: The Burari Deaths is so compelling to watch despite some slow spots spread over the three hours. It's a true crime story that is very specific to India and the deep-held beliefs in the wisdom of the family patriarch and the hope of a better world beyond. 

Much of the series focuses on interviews with family members and friends, as well as experts who attempt to put the events into some sort of societal context. But despite the best efforts, it's still difficult to imagine how the death of an entire family could happen without any warning. And while the diaries do provide a general overview of the events that led up to the deaths, viewers are left with so many questions that simply can't be answered. This is one of those cases where the fact there are no surviving witnesses means that we will never have any real insight into the family's last moments and how much of the ritual was voluntary.

In the end, House Of Secrets: The Burari Deaths provides some insight into daily life in New Delhi and the challenges of living in a society where so much of family life is still bound up inside these long-held beliefs that can seem unreasonable to outsiders.

House Of Secrets: The Burari Deaths is now streaming on Netflix.

Last modified on Monday, 08 November 2021 13:46