Waris Hussein (born 9 December 1938) is a British-Indian television director and film director best known for his many productions for British television, including Doctor Who and A Passage to India.
Hussein was born in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, British India, into a Saidanpur (Barabanki District) Taluqdar background, and grew up mainly in Bombay. He came to the UK with his family in 1946, when his father, Ali Bahadur Habibullah, was appointed to the Indian High Commission. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, his father returned to Pakistan, but his mother, Attia Hosain, chose to stay in England with her children, and worked as a writer and as broadcaster on the Indian Section of the BBC's Eastern Service from 1949.
He was educated at Clifton College, and then studied English literature at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he directed several plays. His contemporaries included Derek Jacobi, Margaret Drabble, Trevor Nunn, and Ian McKellen, whom he directed in several productions, including a Marlowe Society revival of Caesar and Cleopatra. After graduating in 1960, he joined the BBC to train as a director. He also changed his name from Habibullah to Hussein:
"It sounded like the King of Jordan then, but [later] turned out to be more like Saddam – and that doesn't help in life."
Hussein directed the first Doctor Who serial, An Unearthly Child, in 1963, although he was unsure about the effect directing televisual science fiction would have on his career:
"[I was] a graduate from Cambridge with honours, and you're directing this piece about cavemen in skins [..] 'I thought, 'Where have I landed up in my life?'"
In 1964, Hussein returned to the series to direct most of the fourth serial, Marco Polo. He went on to direct many other productions, such as: a BBC television version of A Passage to India (1965); the BBC serial Notorious Woman (1974); the suffragette movement BBC drama Shoulder to Shoulder (1974); and the Thames Television serial Edward and Mrs Simpson (1978). In the latter two productions, he worked once more with former Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert. He also directed for Thames the first story (a four-parter) in the Armchair Thriller series.
Hussein's feature film A Touch of Love (1969) was entered into the 19th Berlin International Film Festival. Later theatrically released films include Melody (1971), also known as S.W.A.L.K, with Jack Wild and Mark Lester, and Henry VIII and his Six Wives (1972), starring Keith Michell, Charlotte Rampling, and Donald Pleasence. The latter film was based on the BBC serial about the Tudor monarch. Another was The Possession of Joel Delaney.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Hussein directed several television movies in the United States. One British project was Intimate Contact (1987), a four-part drama for Central TV with Claire Bloom and Daniel Massey, portraying the experience of a couple where the husband has contracted and ultimately dies from AIDS. Although he did not reveal it to anyone on the production at the time, the subject was particularly close one for Hussein, who lost his own partner Ian to the epidemic.
In 1997, Hussein directed Sixth Happiness (1997), a film whose screenplay was written by Firdaus Kanga, the author of the semi-autobiographical novel Trying to Grow. Meera Syal, Nina Wadia, and Firdaus Kanga starred in the film.
In the BBC drama An Adventure in Space and Time (2013), about the creation of Doctor Who, Hussein was portrayed by actor Sacha Dhawan.
Hussein received a BAFTA award for Edward and Mrs. Simpson (shared with producer Andrew Brown), and an Emmy Award for the Barry Manilow musical Copacabana (1985).