The Central Board of Film Certification has asked the makers of a film on politician Arvind Kejriwal to have it cleared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mumbai Mirror reported on Friday. It asked them to get no objection certificates from Kejriwal and former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit too. Censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani said that this was because the directors, Khusboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla, had used footage of political leaders including Modi without their permission.

The makers of the English-Hindi film, called An Insignificant Man, told Mumbai Mirror that the board also asked them to remove all references to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2016 and has been produced by the director of Ship of Theseus, Anand Gandhi.

The makers said they had applied for certification in February. They claimed that when they approached Nihalani to meet him regarding the film’s certification, he said he did not “owe them an explanation” and did not speak to them.

Ranka said, “Is Mr Nihalani expecting the prime minister to do the censor chief’s job now? If any of the concerned parties, including Mr Modi, Mr Kejriwal or Ms Dixit have a problem, they can challenge us in court.” She added that she and Shukla have no “political background” and that when they had met Kejriwal regarding the film, he was “non-committal”.

However, Nihalani denied that the censor board asked them to make any cuts, when contacted by the Mumbai newspaper. When asked about the NoCs, he said that other films had also needed clearance from well-known people mentioned in their movies. “When Karan Johar used Raveena Tandon’s name in a film, he got NoC from her. Ditto the makers of Jolly LLB 2 for a reference to Salman Khan,” Nihalani said. “We will only clear the documentary once we get the NoCs.”

The CBFC has been routinely criticised for forcing controversial cuts in Indian films. It had refused to certify Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha, saying it was “women-oriented”. It had also removed same-sex kissing scenes from a song in the movie Befikre.

The board was also in the news for many weeks last year, for recommending as many as 89 cuts in Udta Punjab, a film about Punjab’s drug problems. The film’s makers had moved the Supreme Court against the CBFC’s cuts, which many political leaders had termed a politically-motivated reaction. The industry had put up a united front, speaking up against the censor board curbing creative freedom.