Dhondup was born in Tibet. Following the Chinese annexation of Tibet, his family fled to Jomsom, Tibet, before settling in Himachal Pradesh, India. Dhondup earned a degree in marketing from Kurukshetra University in 1990 and began working for the music division of CBS-Sony India. Over the next six years, he produced documentaries, commercial advertising, institutional films, and television series. He became interested in filmmaking after viewing Schindler's List in 1996. From 1999 to 2002 he studied at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California on a Fulbright scholarship. Dhondup stated that he sought to use film to "tell our story, of our community, of our lost generation – a contemporary story of Tibetan youth". He and his wife founded their production company Clear Mirror Pictures in 2004. They have made their home in Los Angeles since 2004. In July 2017, Dhondup became a founding partner of TriCity Pictures, which produces films in the Himalayas for a global audience.