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9 December 1938
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
|Alma mater||Queens' College, Cambridge|
|Occupation||Television and film director|
|Known for||Directing first episodes of Doctor Who|
Hussein was born in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India, 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 partition 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 several times, notably in a Marlowe Society production 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 is particularly remembered for having directed the first ever Doctor Who serial, An Unearthly Child, in 1963, despite the fact that he was unsure about the effect directing televisual science fiction would have on his career. Looking back on the experience, he said "[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 he returned to the series to direct most of the fourth serial, Marco Polo. He went on to direct many other productions such as a 1965 BBC television version of A Passage to India; the BBC serial Notorious Woman (1974); suffragette movement drama Shoulder to Shoulder (BBC, 1974); and the Thames Television serial Edward and Mrs Simpson (1978). The latter two productions saw him working once more with former Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert. He also directed for Thames the first story (a 4-parter) in the Armchair Thriller series.
His 1969 film A Touch of Love was entered into the 19th Berlin International Film Festival. In 1970 he directed Jack Wild and Mark Lester in the film Melody(also known as S.W.A.L.K). He also directed the theatrical motion picture version of Henry VIII and his Six Wives (1972) starring Keith Michell, Charlotte Rampling and Donald Pleasence.
In the 1990s he directed several television movies in the United States.
In 1997 he directed Sixth Happiness, 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.
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