In 1998, a very knowledgeable bloke posted a simple query in the ever-interesting Tamil Film Music Page (TFMPage.com). He asked, “Why does ARR always begin songs with a word repeated twice?” That got everyone thinking. Frenetic lists were made. Before someone could rattle off ‘Chaiya Chaiya’, ‘Mustafa Mustafa’, ‘Ennavale Ennavale’, ‘Humma Humma’, ‘Rukumani Rukumani’, ‘Urvasi Urvasi’ and ‘Columbus Columbus’, another geek discovered that Ilayaraja was equally guilty of replicative words. ‘Janani Janani’, ‘Mayilae Mayilae’, ‘Manidha Manidha’, and ‘Sendhoorapoovae Sendhoorapoovae’ were stacked up as a riposte by a Rehman fan.
As a wise observer noted, neither could be blamed as the tradition of using Irattai Kilavi (twin words) has been around since the time of the Tolkappiyam (the first known work in Tamil literature). And if you care to look around, you’ll notice it everywhere, even today. Tamilians use ‘pala pala’ to indicate ‘glow’, ‘moru moru’ to emphasize crispness, ‘modhu modhu’ to cue roly-poly-ness, ‘palaar palaar’ to imply getting whacked, ‘vala vala’ for yakking, and ‘kisu kisu’ for gossiping.
Forget Tamil, ‘Twin Words’ is a phenomenon right across India. One can find hundreds of examples in Kannada, Telugu, Bengali and Hindi. It’s so prevalent that two IIT Kanpur scholars RMK Sinha and Anil Thakur have actually put out a research paper on the topic.
The gist of their findings is: If the pair is a noun form like ‘ghar ghar’ or ‘bachcha bachcha’, the intention is to quantify things – although in case of ‘chor chor’ or ‘bachao bachao’, the idea is to get more attention; Numeral replications like ‘ek ek’, ‘aadmi aadmi’ is done to create a group feel; Adverb and adjective replications such as ‘dheere dheere’, ‘choti choti’, ’bade bade’ and ’naya naya,’ are meant for intensifying the meaning; Onomatopoeic repetitions like ‘ghanan ghanan’ (downpour), ‘kaanv kaanv’ (cawing), ‘sar sar’ (blowing), ‘jhar jhar’ (flowing) and ‘dhak dhak’ (heartbeat), are used for capturing natural sounds; while pronoun repetitions like ‘jahan jahan’, ‘jab jab’ and ‘jis jis’ are used for amplification of the focus.
Bollywood has been a fast learner of these tricks. Which is why, many blockbuster hits featured twin words in their titles. One can recall ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Ha’, ‘Kabhie Kabhie’, ‘Khel Khel Mein’, ‘Andaaz Apna Apna’, ‘Bol Radha Bol’ and ‘Bhaag Milka Bhaag’. My gut feel is Twenty20 sounds a lot sexier than test cricket because of the tautology. Brands like Tata, Pass Pass, Toto, M&Ms and 50/50 are beneficiaries of the same principle. So are the many catchy cab numbers (3000 3000 and 6000 6000) deployed in Chennai. In conclusion, all one say is that if one wishes to capture mindshare, it helps to say things over and over!