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.