Waris Hussein

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Waris Hussein
Born Waris Habibullah
(1938-12-09) 9 December 1938 (age 79)
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
Education Clifton College
Alma mater Queens' College, Cambridge
Occupation Television and film director
Years active 1960–present
Known for Directing first episodes of Doctor Who

Waris Hussein (born 9 December 1938) is a British-Indian television director and film director best known for his many productions for British television.[3]


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,[4] and worked as a writer and as broadcaster on the Indian Section of the BBC's Eastern Service from 1949.[5]

He was educated at Clifton College, and then studied English literature at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he directed several plays.[6] His contemporaries included Derek Jacobi, Margaret Drabble, Trevor Nunn, and Ian McKellen,[7] whom he directed several times, notably in a Marlowe Society[8] production of Caesar and Cleopatra.[9] 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."[10]

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?'"[11]

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.[3][12][13]

His 1969 film A Touch of Love was entered into the 19th Berlin International Film Festival.[14] 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.[3]

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.[15]

In the 2013 BBC drama An Adventure in Space and Time, about the creation of Doctor Who, Hussein was portrayed by actor Sacha Dhawan.[16]


He received a BAFTA award for Edward and Mrs. Simpson (shared with producer Andrew Brown), and an Emmy Award for the Barry Manilow musical Copacabana.


  1. ^ "Television in 1979". BAFTA Awards. 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Barry Manilow - Honors and Awards". barrynethomepage.com. 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Angelini, Sergio (2013). "BFI Screenonline: Hussein, Waris (1938- )". screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  4. ^ Khan, Naseem (5 February 1998). "Obituary: Attia Hosain". The Independent. London: INM. ISSN 0951-9467. OCLC 185201487. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Attia Hosain". The Open University. 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  6. ^ Roy, Amit (15 October 2013). "Just who is Waris Hussein?". Mid Day. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  7. ^ "Twelfth Night (Cambridge)". mckellen.com. 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  8. ^ "Past Productions". The Marlowe Society. 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  9. ^ "Caesar and Cleopatra with Ian McKellen". mckellen.com. 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  10. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (16 October 2013). "Doctor Who's Waris Hussein on William Hartnell, Bette Davis, & Peter Cook loathing David Frost". Radio Times. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  11. ^ Sweney, Mark (16 October 2013). "Doctor Who director exposes William Hartnell as reluctant first Time Lord". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  12. ^ Martin, Dan (14 February 2013). "Doctor Who classic episode #1: An Unearthly Child". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  13. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - The Reunion, Doctor Who". BBC Radio 4. 12 April 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  14. ^ "A Touch of Love - Awards". imdb.com. 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  15. ^ "Sixth Happiness". British Film Institute. 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  16. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (30 January 2013). "Doctor Who: Waris Hussein meets Sacha Dhawan for Mark Gatiss's An Adventure in Space and Time". Radio Times. Retrieved 13 November 2013.

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