Student Spotlight: Taarini Mookherjee, PhD Candidate in English and Comparative Literature

October 19, 2019
Taarini Mookherjee

Where did you grow up? 
Kolkata, India.

What drew you to your field? 
One of my earliest memories is listening to recordings of Shakespeare with my grandfather. He had an abiding love for the Bard and could recite long passages from the plays from memory. Without a doubt, my grandfather cultivated my own love for Shakespeare’s plays.

When I was completing my master’s degree in London, I worked as a research intern at Shakespeare's Globe. During that time, the theater hosted the Globe to Globe Festival, which brought theatre companies from all over the world to perform on the same stage. I experienced the diverse abundance of languages, styles, performance techniques, and interpretations associated with Shakespeare around the world, and it cemented my interest in Shakespeare in contemporary performance.

How would you explain your current research to someone outside of your field? 
My dissertation examines Shakespeare in contemporary Indian film and theater, and I focus specifically on productions that describe themselves as “Indian adaptations of Shakespeare.” However, instead of addressing only how Shakespeare is adapted, I look at how India is represented in these productions, arguing that they reveal a great deal about how we imagine and perform “India” today. In other words, I try to understand what these productions mean by “India,” how these versions of “India” engage with broader public conversations about the country and what it means to be “Indian,” and what freedoms and obstacles Shakespeare provides to this process.

What is your favorite thing about being a student at Columbia GSAS?
Without question, my favorite thing about Columbia has been teaching. I've been lucky to have the opportunity to teach in the Core, and the process of explaining the building blocks of my discipline—reading and writing—has made me a more attentive and self-aware reader and writer. More importantly, I've had the pleasure of teaching groups of diverse, highly motivated, unbelievably creative, and terrifyingly smart people. I've learned so much from all of them.

Is there a common misconception about a topic in your field that you wish you could correct?
One common misconception is that Shakespeare came up with the original stories for his plays. Almost all of the plays Shakespeare wrote were adaptations or appropriations of stories that already existed in another language or genre.

Who is your hero of fiction?
The character I've always identified with most is Hermione Granger, from the Harry Potter books. There’s something to be said for a responsible, dependable (albeit occasionally insufferable) know-it-all.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My grandfather, because he saw education as a limitless and lifelong experience. He was always ready to learn something new.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Probably an elephant—or salted caramel.

Where is your favorite place to eat on/around campus?
Sweetgreen gets a lot of business from me! Their food is healthy, filling, and tasty.