House of Secrets: Burial Deaths Review: Sanjeev Jha, a young man who hailed from Madhubani, Bihar and was engaged in social work providing free education to slum children in Delhi, started his political journey in 2013. He contested the assembly elections on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket. Elections were held again in 2015 and he won again. He played the role of Sanjeev in Anna Hazare’s ‘India Against Corruption’. Arvind Kejriwal groomed this land-linked activist to penetrate BJP strongholds. On the one hand, knowing everything about education and politics, on the other hand, 11 people from the same family are facing suspicious suicides in your constituency. On June 1, 2018, bodies of 11 members of the Chundawat alias Bhatia family were found in a two-storey house in Sant Nagar, Sanjeev Jha’s assembly constituency Burari. 10 were found hanging from the ceiling and the eldest, her mother, was strangled to death in another room. This incident shook not only Delhi but the entire country. The 3-episode true crime documentary ‘House of Secrets: The Burial Deaths’ on Netflix tries to understand the psychology behind the crime.
Filmmaker Leena Yadav and her assistant Anubhav Chopra teamed up for her film ‘Rajma Chawal’ in this gruesome and heart-wrenching true crime documentary. It is worth warning that the faint of heart should not watch this. But there are no gory scenes and no dead bodies are shown hanging. The music, filming and individual interviews of this documentary are so heartbreaking that you just shudder There is no tradition of such documentaries in India, whereas Netflix has many such foreign documentaries and people love them. ‘House of Secrets’ is a first-of-its-kind Indian documentary that explores the psychology behind a heinous crime. How confusing situations arise from the deteriorating mental state of one family member and the entire family, fearing the unknown, does as they are told. Sadly, he lost his life this time.
80-year-old Narayani Devi, her elder daughter Pratibha Bhatia (57 years) and her daughter Priyanka (33 years), elder son Bhavnesh (50 years), his wife Savita (48 years) and their daughter Neetu (25 years), Manu ( 25 years) 25 years) 23 years) and son Dhruv (15 years). Narayani Devi’s younger son Lalit (45 years), his wife Tina (42 years) and their only son Shivam (15 years) all lived together. Lalit was the main driver of this whole incident. Although Lalit was a very polite and good-natured person, a head injury in a road accident and a subsequent horrific accident left him with the loss of his voice and a drastic change in his personality.
His father died in 2007 and after some time Lalit started telling the whole family that his father’s spirit had entered him. Although the family members found it a little strange, Lalit behaved like his father. His words were believed. At his behest, family members opened a grocery store and then plywood and hardware. The house is out of luck. Lalit wrote his father’s words in a diary every day and the whole family had to read and follow it. Slowly all the members started writing diaries. Leaving aside the daily things, how to walk on the true path like religious thoughts, which day will be worshiped, who will tell whom, analysis of everyone’s behavior, all such things were written. Even though everything was normal on the night of the suicide, people from the neighborhood met him, traded in shops, i.e. life was normal. Then at night, the whole family committed suicide by hanging themselves with a rope, dupatta, saree. As Narayani Devi was old, she could not hang, so her throat was cut apart. Some members were handcuffed and all were blindfolded.
Leena Yadav worked hard for this documentary. Television reports, newspaper cuttings, interviews with crime reporters and all the police officers involved in the case are part of the documentary. The scenes of the Bhatia family’s conversation with their neighbors in Sant Nagar can make you cringe. As the family lived in the area for about 20 years and had two shops, there was daily business. Apart from this, everyone in the family was well known in the neighborhood. Lalit also spoke to some of his friends, who eventually took it upon themselves to perform the last rites. Different friends show different pictures of Lalit. The most chilling statements came from the policemen who first arrived at the scene and found all the bodies hanging from nets on the roof of the house and the family’s pet dog barking the whole time. There was only one thing in the statements of the eyewitnesses that hit like a hammer in the mind – a scene we have never seen in our lives and cannot forget now even if we wanted to.
This documentary has a few things that make it better than any other crime documentary. When interviewed by the policemen, the policemen answered with a smile. Solving criminal cases is a daily task for them. Even after seeing such a terrible scene, he has to forget all the sorrows and pains, joys and sorrows and go to work on the next case. You will be surprised to see that the SHO of the police station speaks English. In the morning when the police constables had to go on the occasion, after working all night he was tired and wanted to lie down for a while but luck took him to his area. In one place, Leena has a shot, where the police are talking on the phone and she tells the caller that let’s talk later, now she is busy shooting a documentary. The human face of the police is not only one of kindness and compassion, but also pride in small achievements. Although the case was sent to the crime branch, it did not reduce the status of the police station. In the documentary, Leena and Abhinav make no mistake in showing espionage or a dramatic turn of events. The police have closed the case and are now unable to open a new investigation, but with the help of a psychologist, they are trying to explain the mental illness behind the mass suicide.
The mystery that remains unsolved is how 42-year-old Lalit, whose mental condition was not good due to accidents and attempted murders, tricked every member of the house into thinking that he had his father’s soul inside him. How will Lalit’s mother feel when her son directs her through his diary? How could his young son and nephew understand him? What would happen if all the members agreed to die together. Why the whole family sacrificed in this death ritual? The media turned the case into a circus. Dozens of reporters and cameramen were present at the scene. With no clue or information in the hands of the media, reports were being shown based on guesswork. The conversations of anyone living on that street were televised as reality shows. Police and crime branch maintain silence in this circus.
Music for this documentary is composed by Qutb-e-Kripa, a children’s band trained from AR Rahman’s Academy of Music, KM Music Conservatory. When Rahman’s hands are on his head, there is a flash of talent. The music keeps this documentary from being difficult. Editing hundreds of hours of footage involved four pairs of hands – James Haygood, Zachary Kashket, M Meliani and Namrata Rao. Documentary co-director Anubhav Chopra has worked as an assistant director with lead directors on more than a dozen films, from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara to Dil Bechara. Originally, Anubhav of Jalandhar won the fourth position in Cinestan’s script writing competition. Old name Leena Yadav. Some of the films he has directed are – ‘Shabd’, ‘Tin Patti’, ‘Parched’ and ‘Rajma Chawal’. Earlier in his career, he also directed a television show titled ‘Say Na Something To Anupam Uncle’. Leena’s husband Asim Bajaj is also the producer of this documentary. Asim Bajaj is actually the son of theater personality Ram Gopal Bajaj and the grandson of Khemchand Prakash, the music director of Lata Mangeshkar’s Ayega Aase Wala (Palace).
11 people died. 11 committed suicide. View diaries written by 11 people. These diaries were also being written for 11 years. According to psychologists, most families in India are like this. Superstition, complete reliance on any one person, talk of ghosts without argument, performing religious activities in the name of worship, which can cause unconditional harm. Watch this documentary. Perhaps you will be able to prevent such accidents from happening around you.
Tags: movie review, Netflix
First Published: October 10, 2021, 07:50 IST