Cover story

Esquire (Singapore) - - Port­fo­lio -

and Na­grani wasn’t V I NNY S HARP I S V I NE S H NA­GRANI al­ways Vinny Sharp.

Eight years ago, Na­grani was at a com­edy open mic ses­sion when he saw, co­me­dian and ac­tor, Rishi Budhrani per­form­ing on stage. I can do that, Na­grani thought to him­self and three weeks later, Na­grani signed up and took to the stage as well, his first time un­der the spot­light.

“I didn’t know him at the time but I looked at [Budhrani] on stage and I knew where he was com­ing from. He’s Sindhi, I’m Sindhi. Sim­i­lar back­grounds. If he could do it, so can I. It has noth­ing to do with tal­ent.”

Na­grani went on stage for a few more open mics be­fore giv­ing up. “I didn’t like it,” he says. “I was lim­ited to three, five min­utes on stage and I was push­ing my­self to­wards max­imis­ing yield on laugh­ter rather than be­ing my­self. There wasn’t enough time for me to flesh out what I wanted to do. I was heav­ily un­sat­is­fied.”

Most com­edy open micers would work up to more stage time through prac­tices week af­ter week, but Na­grani didn’t have the pa­tience for it. “It was van­ity,” Na­grani ad­mits. “I thought be­ing in the limelight was im­por­tant. [But] I had my ego tested and con­fronted through­out the span of NS (Na­tional Ser­vice) and univer­sity mainly. That’s when it changed.”

It’s of­ten said that en­rol­ment in univer­sity is a piv­otal junc­ture in any­one’s life. At the Univer­sity of Manchester, Na­grani was on track to be­ing an eco­nomics grad­u­ate en route to work­ing in the fi­nance sec­tor. Academia wasn’t Na­grani’s cup of tea but he chose eco­nomics be­cause it was the safest thing to take. But it was a con­flu­ence of fac­tors that would lead him to be­come Vinny Sharp. One of which was a quick and last­ing friend­ship with Santi Martyn. In­ter­ac­tions with Martyn made him ques­tion ev­ery as­sump­tion he had about life—him­self, reli­gion, fam­ily, cul­ture, the whole she­bang. “I re­alised how much in the dark I have kept my­self in and I started to re-ques­tion ev­ery­thing,” Na­grani says. He was brought low, hum­bled.

“When the ego started to di­min­ish, that’s when the gen­uine thirst for knowl­edge be­gan.”

There was also the soli­tude. He’d never ex­pe­ri­enced true alone-time in Sin­ga­pore as he worked his way to­wards ful­fill­ing what so­ci­ety ex­pected of him. Get good grades, get into a good school… there was al­ways a bench­mark for him to at­tain, but once he got to univer­sity he had no one to ha­rangue him. He didn’t have to lis­ten to any­one. He was free to ex­plore.

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