If it could apply to the materialistic rat race of American society twenty years ago, why not the yuppy sector of India today? Neil Simon’s The Prisoner of Second Avenue, which satirized the cutthroat competitiveness of life in New York in 1972 and represented his more serious period of work, forms the source of Prisoner of Malabar Hill by New Delhi’s Prime Time Theatre Foundation (a Spandan presentation, Birla Sabhagar, January 3).
Obviously Sita Raina and Lillete Dubey’s adaptation into a Bombay setting touched a sensitive spot among the urban elite watching it, because Simon’s themes—the claustrophobic confines of matchbox city apartments, the executive hero being laid off by his employers, the hectic pace of living that leads to his nervous breakdown, the law-and-order problem resulting in a burglary—have all come to stay in the tension-packed atmosphere of any Indian metropolis. Simon places his faith in human, not monetary, relationships in the romanticized conclusion.
The director, Ranjit Kapur, does not have to do very much to express what is intrinsic to the script: the sober concerns as well as Simon’s patented style of wacky humour and idiosyncratic characters. Amar Talwar’s performance in the title role stands out, leaving Dubey to play second fiddle as his wife. However, Jacqueline Grewal, Raina, Nidhi Sharma and Cecil Qadir cannot give Talwar’s siblings a believably nouveau-riche portrayal. And the newsreader (Suneet Tandon) is utterly irrelevant.
(From The Telegraph, 22 January 1993)